Learning what matters

Two weeks ago HCRP and I ran a new-to-us running trail here in our fair little hamlet. It’s another of our city’s greenway running/biking trails (okay walkers can use them too).

/Sidebar
Given:
A) That we boast one of the country’s biggest running clubs and their Award Winning Women’s Running Training Program;
B) The number of running/biking venues;, and
C) The fact that getting a date for a 5K is getting dangerously close to requiring a sudden death cage match between Race Directors;
it simply astounds me that my hometown consistently ranks among America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities.

Who are they talking to when they do these surveys?!
Certainly nobody I know or spend time around!
/End Sidebar

The trail we ran two weeks ago has a fair number of short, sharp inclines which I was surprised to find myself reveling in. The interesting thing is that you run up the inclines going one direction and don’t end up running back down until you’ve turned around to come back. Since running short, sharp inclines is new to me (Read: That was the first time I’d ever done it!) I made the rookie mistake of running back down said short, sharp inclines (hereafter known as The SSI) rather than pulling back and walking. It didn’t take too many of those before The Other Knee – close friend and cohort of Ye Olde Knee and hereafter referred to as TOK – began expressing its displeasure with that particular modality of handling The SSI. I wound up (Southernism for “had to”) walking most of the last two of my seven mile run. I was not a happy camper, especially since we had joined one of the Half-Marathon/Marathon Training Groups for that particular run and I got to be seen WALKING back to the meeting point. Walking?! Seriously?! Despite the understanding I received since I was limping and all, I was still utterly humiliated. And hurting. So I R.I.C.E.D.ed it all afternoon and evening and got my plan in place for taking care of the strain – not injury – of a learning experience.

I headed for Vegas the next day which meant a lot of time spent pacing around in airports (six hours more than I’d planned for, but that’s another story for another blog) and sitting in cramped (even for my 5’4″ frame) airplane seats. So I wore my ‘big brace‘ and opted not to run on Monday. I got in a short (four mile) run while I was on vacation in Vegas, and it went well. TOK was talking to me a bit, but I attributed that to the stairs I had to climb crossing streets on The Strip. Owing to airline travel induced dehydration when I got home I didn’t get a second run in that week and set out to run eight miles on Saturday. That got cut short when TOK was full-on screaming at me at Mile Three and I ended up walking the entire last three miles.

HCRP and I got in a short (just under three miles) run Tuesday morning, but again no mid-length run before this morning’s Long Run. There were no reasons, only excuses. “I’m tired” being the leading one I used to roll over and hit the snooze Thursday morning and “Well now it’s just too hot!” being the go-to Thursday evening. Okay, maybe that was less ‘excuse’ than ‘legitimate caution’, but still I didn’t get that mid-length run in.

Which brings us to today’s eight mile run(ish).
I did make it eight miles.
I did not run all of it.
I also didn’t walk half of it.
This time I had A Strategy! (See? There’s strategy – I’ve learned!)

Having put some thought into things I decided to change up my run/walk intervals from 6:1 to 6:2.
The only reason I was running 6:1 intervals had to do with making a certain time for a given distance. And the truth of it is that for me it isn’t about “making time” or even setting/breaking a PR (Personal Record). For me it’s about the running and finishing the distance.
Including – and especially – my first half-marathon.
363 days after finishing my first 5K as a runner I will be participating in (not competing in) my first half-marathon.
Me!
The person who went into running saying “All I ever really want to run are 5Ks. Really, I’m good with that.”

Don’t get me wrong, 5Ks are fun! I love running them. Especially for causes. Doing a 5K is a great way to do more than just throw money at something. It’s about being physically present in support of that thing. Whether walking or running – you are there. You are part of it.

I just want to run further.
I like the feeling of knowing I’ve just gone further on a given course than I’ve ever been before. Further than *I* have ever gone before – even if only a few steps.

It is so easy to get caught up in PRs and finishing times/places. Heck, when I crossed the finish line of my first 10K my first question wasn’t “Where’s the water/bathroom?” it was “Am I last?!”
How ridiculous was that?
I had just finished My First 10K as A Runner.  Heck, At All!
I was vertical.
I was breathing.
I wanted to do another one! (We’re registered for one in October.)
And as I tell other women who are newer to running than me and come to me for advice (WTW are they thinking?!) I was miles ahead of all the people sitting on their couches at home!

Ya’ know, I was going to detail today’s run with a mile-by-mile breakdown of what happened when and where things went wrong, but in all truth that really isn’t important.
What is important is this: Today I ran a full mile further down the Greenline than I have ever gone before.
I ran over The Wolf River, under I-240, under White Station, Mendenhall, and Perkins, and I crossed Waring before I turned around and headed back.

And next Saturday I’ll go half a mile further than that before I turn around and head back.
And that, my friends, is what matters.

This is what Vegas does to people

It robs you.
Not of your money.

It robs you of your groove.
And hydration.

No matter how much Gatorade or water you drink while you’re there, no matter how closely you monitor your urine color – really I did this like it was my job – you arrive back home utterly and completely dehydrated.

Okay maybe it wasn’t just Vegas.
Maybe it was Vegas and airline travel.
But you arrive home utterly and completely dehydrated.
And you feel like hammered crap*.
And you miss your mid-length run on Thursday night because you are utterly exhausted from the dehydration.  And the delayed “last flight out of Atlanta to Memphis”.
Either way, you miss that Mid-Length Run that might have told you that your ‘Knother Knee was still a bit bothered from that sharp incline you ran down during your last Long Run – you who are unaccustomed to running down sharp inclines – so that you wouldn’t have come so completely unstrung when you had to cut Saturday’s nine mile run short when The ‘Knother Knee started screaming speaking loudly at the 2.5 mile mark.  Then making the (wise, prudent, forward-thinking) choice to turn around at three miles and walk – yes I said W-A-L-K – back the entire three miles.
And trust that your training for your first half-marathon (in 54 days from today) isn’t completely off track and that you will finish the race.

BUT!
To my credit, I did run while In Vegas and On Vacation.

I ran four miles.
Okay, I ran most of four miles.  I went up and down a lot of stairs.  I used them as my walking intervals.  There were a lot of walking intervals.
And I did not knock over any of the other tourists who were in my way on the sidewalks at 7:30 am.

But I have things to catch up with here.
Like my newest tattoo.  Herbert The Turtle.  And what he means to my running.

And I shall.
After tomorrow’s run as a Coach!

*Steel Magnolias reference.  Forward to 0:33 if you don’t want to watch the entire clip.

I left my title on the trail

Yesterday about halfway through this week’s Long Run (seven miles), which was actually the week’s only run that still went absolutely great, I had a title for this post come to mind and evidently it got left on the trail. (My empty Gu packets did not however get left on the trail.)

I finished the seven miles with zero negative input from Ye Olde Knee. Not a twinge, grimace, whine, or yap. The Secret was Pace.  (Wait!  That was my title!) Plain, pure, and simple! I started and stayed at a consistent 11:45 – 12:00 per mile pace from the beginning.  And intervals. Intervals are also key.  I ran to each half mile marker (about 5:30 – 6:00 minutes) then walked about a minute – long enough to take a sip of water and get my breath, but not long enough to let my heart rate drop completely – then started running again. And it worked like a charm!  So much so that I went ahead and downloaded the un-free ($4.99) Endomondo App so I can customize a 6:1 interval workout that will cue me when to walk and how long a minute is.

Next week we run eight miles and the week after that nine, and so on until Labor Day when we’ll be up to thirteen miles which allows for a taper week starting the weekend before our Half Marathon. And for the first time in a long time I can really see me doing this.

But!
One of my single greatest running accomplishments starts tomorrow evening at 6:00 pm. Tomorrow evening I will be wearing a bright gold singlet with five red letters on the back: C-O-A-C-H as a Volunteer Coach in the Women’s Running Training Program that got me started with this madness on this path.

This time last year I showed up in a gravel parking lot with about 600 other women milling around in the insufferable Mid-July Memphis heat wondering:
A) What on earth I was doing there;
B) What made me think I could run;
C) How far – or shortly – into this I was going to drop dead from a heat-and-being -overweight-and-out-of-shape induced coronary; and finally
D) When someone was going to come along and talk some sense into me instead of saying things like “I admire you for doing this Jules!” “I am so proud of you Jules!” and especially HCRP who kept insisting on saying “You can do this Honey!”
How was I gonna quit in the face of all that belief and pride and encouragement?
But then, caught up in what was quite obviously a protracted endorphin high or the after-effects of near heatstroke, the day after our first Run With Coaches I emailed the Head Coach of the Beginning Runners Group and told her I was already committed to being a Volunteer Coach next year. Which is now this year.
I did this for a couple reasons.
The aforementioned obvious endorphin/heatstroke thing.
Being impressed with the Volunteer Coaches who were giving of their (seasoned, farther-than-I-would-ever-run-ever-in-my-life-runners) time, and genuinely caring about my overweight, middle-aged, out-of-shape self and wanting to (hopefully) be (maybe a little tiny bit) like them someday.
But really mostly to put myself so far Out There with “this running thing” that I had absolutely zero opportunity to back out. Or quit running once the Graduation 5K was “in the books”.
I know me.
I’ve seen me start something with great enthusiasm only to fizzle out because there wasn’t a long-term end game.
So I gave myself one.
To be a Volunteer Coach would mean having more experience than “Oh, yeah, I did this last year but haven’t seen my running shoes since September but I’m sure it will all come back to me.”
Of course I wasn’t counting on this running thing to become everything it has.

Really, it hasn’t “become” anything.
It has simply given focus, direction, and physicality to things that have always been part of me.
The determination to do something no matter how difficult, inconvenient, or sometimes painful it may be.
The drive to keep with something even when I have every valid reason to “just let it go”.
The realization that The Goal I began with wasn’t so much The Goal as it was a stepping stone to The Next Big Thing.
The knowledge and understanding that the race I’m running is mine and that whether I’m first or last crossing the Finish Line isn’t the point. The point is that I kept going from Start to Finish and got there (in the words of Jeff Galloway) “vertical, breathing, and ready to do it again”.
I have learned:
That, like causes and battles, there are a million races out there and I simply can’t run them all. Mostly because there are only so many Registration Fees in our budget, but still . . . you have to pick your races.
That the races you can’t run, you can always be there to help with and cheer others on through.
That pace is everything.
That water is our friend.
That hills – even the steep ones – make the run more interesting and are less painful in the long run.
That it’s all about the shoes and supporting The Girls. And you will pay for cheap shoes one way or another.
That I can do this.
And if I can do this I can do anything!
And if I can do this, and anything, so can you.

See? I was born for this Coach thing!

So. This is how it happens . . .

Step One: One is awarded with an Inspiring Blog Award.
Step Two: One thinks up about a bajillion other things to write about.
Step Three: One’s Writing-About-Running Muse promptly skips town, apparently on some sort of retreat with one’s ability to formulate an intelligent thought.

I’ve been running.
In fact, on Saturday, June 23rd I ran my first 10K.

But about a week before that I had an epiphany.
Or reached a conclusion.
Or set a goal.
Or maybe I just surrendered to the inevitable.
Whatever I did, I also put it Out There. Because I’m me and that’s how I roll.

A couple weeks ago (hold on, let me check Facebook…) Sunday evening, June 17th HCRP and I were enjoying a glass of wine after dinner sitting out back on our deck and discussing our training schedule for the (then) three months leading up to our Half Marathon in September. Somewhere in the conversation I heard the somebody say “Something tells me that as soon as I cross the Finish Line of my first Half I’m going to decide I want to do a Full just once to say I did.” HCRP just looked at me and said “Possibly.”  The Queen of Potential Hyperbole marries The King of Understatement.  These are the conversations that are spawned by that.

And sometime the next day I decided to just give up, give in, and go ahead and set The Goal. Or surrender. See above. So I put it Out There on Facebook. And now that my muse has dragged her sorry self back from wherever it was she’s been the past couple weeks I’m putting it Out There here.

We’re running the USAF Half Marathon this September.
We’re running the St. Jude Half Marathon this December.
We’re running the New Orleans Half Marathon next March.
And then we begin training to run The St. Jude Marathon – FULL MARATHON – in December 2013.
And I say “we” not “I” because HCRP has decided he may as well do the St. Jude Full next year too.  Frankly, I’ve been expecting him to announce his intention to do a Full since he finished his first Half last March.

And I have a feeling that The Point won’t be in actually running the marathon, but in deciding to do it and everything between now and that particular Finish Line.

So there you have it.
I’m going to run a Full Marathon.
Next year.

For tonight I have to get to bed because tomorrow morning’s three miles aren’t gonna run themselves!