Hill Repeats, or why dog poop can be your new best friend

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

steep-grade

Carrie and I are at it again. Another half marathon, another training plan under way, working toward the Austin half marathon on February 16. We are using the same training plan that got us through the San Antonio Rock ‘n Roll half marathon just a few weeks ago.

Which means we start with hill repeats.  Temple Hill.  The nearly half-mile, pretty darn steep monster hill we conquered last time around. Only it doesn’t feel like a conquest. It feels like an initiation.

Monday. Four to five short hills were on the schedule. Half way up Temple Hill, or the equivalent of six lampposts.

We braced ourselves at the bottom, walked in circles, mentally preparing for the trek. I leveled my gaze on the ground in front of me as we started the first repeat. We chatted two-thirds of the way up, counting lampposts.

On the second repeat, I noted objects to guide me. Look for those markers, and I don’t have to count. A rust-colored sign at lamppost two, a screw in the middle of the sidewalk between lampposts three and four. A pile of dog poop at lamppost five.

I grimaced when I first saw it. Some poor soul had already imprinted his shoe with it, and I was immediately angry. What kind of moron let’s their dog poop smack in the middle of where people walk?

By the third repeat, I was breathing too heavily to be angry with the pile or its owner’s owner.  I remembered it was there, looked for it, ran around.

By the fourth repeat, I was almost glad to see it, sitting there near lamppost five, not so far from the end.

By the fifth repeat, I actively sought it out, raised my head in anticipation. Why is it taking so long to come into view? Is that it up ahead? No, that’s a leaf. Where is that darn poop?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, there it was, like an old friend waiting patiently for my arrival.  I was never more happy to see something so foul, so repelling, yet so close to the finish that I wanted to sing. Instead, I breathed deeply and smiled in relief as I crossed the line.

That wasn’t so bad, we said as we bounced down the hill, instinctively avoiding the pile. We did it, we sighed. We reached our goal.

***

Tomorrow is Girls on the Run of Bexar County’s Fall 2013 5K, the culminating event for our season, where our girls get to experience first-hand what it feels like to finish something they’ve worked for 10 long, hard weeks to achieve. The excitement is palpable, among the coaches as well as the girls. We hope that the confidence the girls gain when they cross the finish line travels with them to every other area of their lives, for the rest of their lives.

I know they are nervous going in. If I could offer them just one bit of advice, it would be this.  You don’t have to embrace the dog poop you encounter on your path, but you don’t have to fear it either. For all you know, that pile of poop could very well be the harbinger of joy and relief, of much better things to come. Step around it. The finish line is waiting.

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Recovery Doesn’t Have to Keep You Down

Posted on November 22, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Courtesy 2milliondogsblog.wordpress.com

Courtesy 2milliondogsblog.wordpress.com

It’s been 3 years since I’ve run San Antonio Rock n Roll half marathon, and now I remember why.  The weather in San Antonio is fickle.  Last Sunday, race day, saw a record high of 89°F.  This Sunday, we’re expecting a high of 42. Go figure. Nevertheless, it was a fun race with a great route. I’ve spent this week recovering, including not running but doing some stretching, strength training, and core work instead. I’d forgotten how much Pilates hurts.

Because of the heat on race day, it was a hard recovery. But following these tips helped ease the pain.

Ice, ice, baby

I know. I can’t believe I said that either.  But an ice bath is the way to go.  Get in the tub, run a couple of inches of warm water, switch the warm to cold until your legs are covered, then pour in the ice. Bags of it, to the tune of 30 lbs.  You may need to wear your cold-weather running shirt in the tub with you. And you probably need to be clutching a very large cup of very hot liquid, but ice will ultimately make your legs happy. By the next day, they’ll be thanking you.

Hydrate

This was the first race where I hit every single water stop.  With all that heat, I needed it. Drinking the day before and during the race, however, is not enough.  I drink all day long after a race ends.  I don’t mean beer, although there’s nothing like an ice-cold beer after a hard, sweaty run; I mean water and electrolyte-replacing liquids. You won’t wake up Monday morning feeling hung over if you keep the liquids coming.

Feed your body well

My body always feels weird the entire day after a hard race.  I feel depleted and want to eat, but nothing sounds good.  I’m often tempted to eat pizza or Cheetos.  Racing is a nice excuse to offer myself that kind of reward, but there’s something about a greasy, cheesy slab of dough that just doesn’t sit right with me. Then again, neither does a steak. I can never decide. I find that I have to practically force myself to eat something, and I have to rationally choose the foods best suited to recovery, the right combination of healthy carbs and protein.

Fortunately, I survived the race—and the ice bath.   When’s the next race?

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Newton’s Laws of Motion

Posted on November 15, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

n3laws

Liar liar pants on fire.

That’s what I said to myself the moment I hit Send on an email a couple of days ago. I was explaining to someone that I wasn’t too concerned about this Sunday’s half marathon.  Since my training was interrupted, my intention was simply to go and have fun, run comfortably, not worry about time.

The truth is, however, that once I get there—heck, once I pick up my race packet on Saturday—I go into competition mode. In fact, I believe it’s already begun. The mental focus that blocks out nearly everything else.  The tightening in my stomach, not nerves (yet), but a physical focus that starts at the core and radiates energy to my arms and legs. (It’s better than coffee by far.) The sudden urge for only healthy food, fuel. No slip-ups with ice-cream or the stash of bite-size Milky Ways in my freezer.

I can’t seem to help it—it happens automatically.  And I’m not sure I want to.

I like competing. I love pushing my body so far that even I am amazed at what it can do. Racing is one of the few times when I am so attuned to my body that I can step outside of it, get out of its way and let it do what it knows how to do. It’s one of the few times I can be one and apart, alone and with others simultaneously.  It’s a joy I cannot describe.

But I don’t have to. Talking’s not a part of it. I just need to run.

Where did I put those matches?

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May I Have a Word?

Posted on November 1, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Thoreau

It’s noon on a Monday and I’m standing in my kitchen wearing the same t-shirt I slept in (one of the perks of working from home).  I’ve just hung up the phone with Carrie and my head hangs in shame. I’ve been listening to myself explain to her that I can’t seem to find the motivation to run.  I can’t do it. It’s just too hard.

It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve run.  Carrie and I are only weeks out from the San Antonio Rock n Roll half marathon, her first. I promised I would run it with her, train for it with her, because your first half is a big deal.  Every half is a big deal.  But smack dab in the middle of a 10-mile run, I landed wrong on my foot.  I tried to go on a little farther, but couldn’t. Carrie walked the 5 miles back to the car with me while I hobbled along feeling terrible about ruining her run.  She’s done awesome with her training since then. I’ve done none.

I think about my mom. Her words ring in my head:  “Because I said I would.”  This was her reply to me in junior high when I asked why she was going to do something she was clearly too overwhelmed to do.  Because she said she would.  Because your word is that significant. It’s what you are.

Although it’s noon on Monday and I’ve never run at noon, I lace up my shoes and go.  I run 4 miles.  Just like that.  On Wednesday, I run 6.  Friday, 8. This week, a repeat, with a 10-miler on Friday. I am astonished I can pick up almost where I left off.  Bodies are amazing.  Minds more so.  I am especially astonished at what I’ve talked myself out of. I wonder how many of those weeks spent telling myself that I can’t do it, it’s just too hard, were to protect something other than my foot.

So now I give my word to myself:  It’s not too hard. I can do it after all.

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The Tortoise and the Hare

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

from News to Swallow, meghanandtommy.com

from News to Swallow, meghanandtommy.com

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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