Archive for September, 2013

The Journey Up

Posted on September 20, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Angel Moroni stands erect, head high and horn to lips at the tallest point on Stone Oak Parkway.  I’ve marveled at this golden statue perched atop the San Antonio LDS temple for the past few years.  The temple itself stands at the pinnacle of one of the highest hills in the area.  You can see both the temple and the statue from quite far.

This hill has been my nemesis, my nightmare—my dream, my goal—for years.  Each time I’ve driven it I’ve thought that maybe one day, maybe one, if I was lucky (or crazy), I would maybe give it a run.  And, if a miracle happened, I would make it to the top.

Until now, I have trained for nearly every half marathon alone.  My friend Carrie is training for her first half, and we are using the same plan, one that calls for hill repeats as one of its two days of speed/strength work.  We are both trying something new:  Carrie, a half marathon.  Me, a running buddy.  We don’t run together every day. Just the hard ones. The longest of the long runs.  The hills.

The hills. We figured if we’re going to run hills, we might as well run Hills.  So we chose temple mount.

Last week, our first hill week, we stood at the bottom of the mount and looked tentatively up.  We couldn’t see the top from the bottom, could barely see a jutting temple corner and the Angel Moroni heralding the dawn.  Four to five short hills is what our plan directed.  Our goal was to get as far as we could, maybe half way, for each repeat.

For the first repeat, we counted five lampposts, about a third of the hill, and stopped, excited.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.  For the second through fourth repeats, we counted eight lampposts, somewhere around half way.  We struggled for breath, lungs searing, and made a fifth repeat, five lampposts.

We went home thrilled with ourselves (though we would barely be able to walk the next day), determined to come back and try again.

This week, we met at the bottom of the mount.  Three to four long hills, our plan said.  Long.

Let’s start where we left off, I suggested.  The first repeat to lamppost eight. Then we can shoot for the top.

Carrie looked at me sideways, hands on her hips, looked up the hill.  I think, she said confidently, that we should go all the way up the first time.  Get it over with.  Then if we feel like it, we can do it again.

So we took a deep breath and began.  We started up the hill in complete silence, eyes dead center on the cement in front of us.  At lamppost eight I was breathing hard, lungs tight but not searing, and we kept going, up and up. Before we knew it, we were at the top, over the last steep hump, the end in sight. I eyeballed a fire hydrant where the sidewalk leveled out, my stopping point.  Carrie bounded past me by two cement squares and stopped at the crosswalk.

We smiled, barely, and looked out and around.  Lights twinkled for miles in the distance, the sky predawn gray.  We sucked in air, high-fived, and jogged back down the hill.  It seemed to take much longer going down than coming up.

The thing about doing something hard once is that in having done it you have proof that you can.  It doesn’t seem right after that to not do what you just did and what you know you can.  It seems that if you do not put in your best effort and repeat your success, you are only cheating yourself.  And if you have a buddy, you are cheating her too.

Eight lampposts thus seemed like a silly goal for the second repeat. It was all or nothing.

This time rather than keeping my eyes trained straight in front of me, I glanced up from time to time, looking for the angel with his horn.  I could see him at the peak, gold and shiny, beckoning me.  I ran and glanced and ran some more, and before long the sidewalk leveled out and the fire hydrant appeared.  Carrie bounded two sidewalk squares past me again.

The third time, I didn’t count lampposts, nor did I seek out the angel.  I paid attention, instead, to my legs that did not hurt, my lungs that worked hard but were not searing, and my arms and hands and head that felt light as we ascended, and I thought how strange, it’s almost as if our altitude is increasing, like in the mountains, but my ears did not pop.  And I remembered the hill at mile 12 of the Austin half marathon, how I cursed the idiot course planner for the giant, steep hill right there, and how this part of temple mount felt like mile 12 then, but now I was not cursing and thinking, as I was then, who does this kind of thing? Who actually pays to torture their body and run like this when they could be in bed with coffee and the newspaper?  No. Instead I was running up and up and again, nearing the top, across the last stretch, fire hydrant in sight. And then I bounded past it, with Carrie, to where the sidewalk ends.

On the way down, that again seemed so much longer than going up, I told Carrie that if it wasn’t for her I would never have made it all the way. I would have quit near the top, would not have pushed myself until my arms and hands and head went light as a feather and I flew the rest of the way.

This is a much better plan than all my previous ones.  Hills are so much easier to ascend with a running buddy.

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Rethinking Pink

Posted on September 13, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

pink glasses

I just bought a new pair of running shoes. Bright purple Asics. Very unlike me. I’ve always hated purple.

A year ago I would have balked at the purchase, told the salesperson to take them back, thank you very much, I’d rather have a pair of shoes that maybe didn’t fit quite so well but that weren’t so, well, purple.

But that was a year ago. Times have changed—at least since I bought a pair of bright pink reading glasses.

I’ve always hated pink even more.

When I say hate, I mean loathe. I mean face-squinching, stomach-churning abhorrence. Growing up, my sister and I inevitably received the exact same gift for birthdays and holidays. Exactly the same, that is, with one exception. Whatever the gift was, she got blue. I got pink.

No one ever asked me what my favorite color was. (Decidedly not pink.) No one bothered. They simply bought every article of clothing, bedding, bathing accessory in pink. And you know how it is. Pink begets pink. When one relative saw me with All Things Pink, others made wild assumptions and purchased even more pink. I was forced to live in a Box of Pink.

When I left home for college, I quickly and thoroughly cleansed my world of All Things Pink. I did not purchase one even remotely pink thing until I was well into my 30s:  One sweater, a beautiful cardigan with pearlized buttons that the store did not have in black. It sat in my closet, tags dangling, for nearly a year before I wore it—and then, only because laundry was weeks overdue.

Yet just about a year ago when I decided it was time to quit fighting the fact that I need reading glasses, I found myself standing in front of a rack handling a pair of bright pink frames. Pink? I shuddered, yet turned them over in my hands, tried them on, tested them on a label I’d been struggling with in aisle 3. I replaced them on the rack and loitered in the antacids aisle.

Pink glasses. Pink? I paced the aisle, completely dismayed that I was considering buying them. Why, dear God, why would the thought even cross my mind? These glasses couldn’t sit in a drawer for a year. I would need them daily to help me see clearly the very intricacies of life, the things that were right in front of my face.

Then it struck me. Pink. A primary color of Girls on the Run.

Since becoming council director, I’ve faced some of the most challenging days of my life. There’s not a day that goes by where I have to do something I can’t do. Maybe I don’t know how to do it, I don’t have the skill set. Maybe I don’t enjoy doing it and I simply don’t want to. Maybe it’s not my strength. Or, maybe, I feel incapable. Inadequate. That if I do this thing, whatever it is, surely I will fail.

But then I do it anyway. Because it must be done.

And because, as it turns out, I can.

Girls on the Run may be about the girls—empowering them to live outside the Girl Box and to reach their full potential—but along the way, serving them has altered the way I see the world. Inevitably, what I see differently is me.

So I put back the Alka Seltzer, Rolaids, and Tums and walked out of the store with pink glasses, a daily reminder that there is another way to see.

Last year, pink glasses. This year, purple shoes. I figure a new vision won’t get me very far unless I’m willing to take it to the street, give it a good run.

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The Tortoise and the Hare

Posted on September 6, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

from News to Swallow,

from News to Swallow,

My friend Lissette turned 50 this year.  From her friends and family, she requested a unique gift:  Run the San Antonio Rock n Roll marathon with her.  Her goal is to recruit 50 family and friends to run this November race.  The half, the full, the relay; run, walk, skip, jump, she doesn’t care what they do or how they do it, only that they try.

Many months ago when she told me about her request, I promised to be one of those 50.  Last month, I registered for the half.

I made out my training plan then, deciding to try something new.  The plan I’ve used for years requires 5 to 6 days of running a week.  My new plan requires only three:  Two days of intense speed work and one long run, plus three days of cross training and one day of rest.

Two weeks into my plan and I can’t decide if I feel like the tortoise or the hare.  Not that I’ve ever run as fast as a hare (or would consider napping in the middle of a race like the hare).  But I’m finding the speed work days to be not just intense but also fun.  And on the days that I run long, the tortoise mantra paces me:  Slow and steady, slow and steady.

It seems that I’ve found the plan that will get me there, as one among the 50.

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