What’s short today was once really long

Not my hair.
Although that’s true too.

No.
I’m talking distance.

Tonight HCRP and I ran “a quick five miles” A) because it was time to run; and B) because I went to bed last night wanting to get a run in tonight.  That second part is a little new to me.  I mean I’m good with days I know I “have to” run to stay in shape or continue training/conditioning.  But this is the first time I’ve actually looked forward to a running day the night before.

Another bit of Running Newness for me was having the run start feeling good just past the half mile mark.
Normally I’m a good mile-and-a-half in before I hit what I call my Sweet Spot.  It’s that point in the run when it really almost doesn’t feel like effort.  Everything is working perfectly and in sync.  The lungs feel great, the legs feel awesome, the feet are very nearly not even touching the pavement, even the sweating feels refreshing and (dare I say?) athletic, and nothing twinges or hurts or otherwise doesn’t do its job.
But tonight just after the half mile marker I realized I Was There.  And it lasted until about mile 4.25 when some invisible force filled my legs with lead.  Oh and the gale force (okay 7 mph according to my Weatherbug App but still) headwind that came not only from out of nowhere but from due east.  But until then it was a really great run!

And somewhere around mile three I realized that this time last year running five miles was not only not a “short run” but was a distance I couldn’t ever have imagined myself running. And tonight it was “just a quick, short run”.
That felt good.

Between going out of town for my dad’s birthday Saturday (they live in a pretty small town that isn’t very running/distance running friendly), and the weather potentially heading our way courtesy of Isaac, we’re putting off this weekend’s Long Run until Monday.
Eleven Miles.
Then we begin our taper before the Half Marathon on September 15th.

That’s right.  Right?
Saturday, September 1st: 3 miles.
Monday, September 3rd: 11 miles.

Wednesday, September 5th: 5 miles.
Saturday, September 8th: 6 – 8 miles.
Monday, September 10th: 3 miles Coaching Run.
Wednesday, September 12th: 3 – 4 miles.
Saturday, September 15th: Race Day!
Yeah, that’s right.

Holy Crap Batman!
That’s right!

And now you get to step inside my head while I talk to myself . . .
Just remember Julianne: Tonight’s Short Run was last year’s “I’ll never run that far”.  You’ve got this.  You have totally got this!

Billy Idol tried to kill me

I listen to music while I run.
Yes, I am one of Those Runners.
The Ear Bud Runners.
My reason for this has more to do with keeping my 12:00 minute per mile pace than escapism.
And as a Responsible Ear Bud Runner I do keep the volume at a level where I can hear “On your left!” in the (ridiculously unlikely) event a cyclist happens to utter them as they speed up behind me.

Back to my playlist . . .
I spent hours putting together my Running Playlist picking songs that would keep me at that consistent pace that I also enjoy and that will be more motivating than irritating.
I’ve added songs.
Pink’s “Get The Party Started”.
Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”
Katy Perry’s “Firework”.

I’ve deleted songs.
The Black Eyed Peas’ “Meet Me Halfway”, while a great song, begins with the lyric “Ooh I can’t go any further than this” and isn’t exactly what you need popping up on your randomed playlist at The Very Moment you feel like quitting running and walking because nothing – legs, lungs, clothes, the trail – nothing feels right.

I thought I had it perfected.
Until about four miles into Saturday’s ten mile run when Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” came on my playlist and I realized there was one huge oversight on my playlist!
Holy Way-Too-Fast Tempo Batman!
It was actually about halfway through The Longest Up-Tempo Song Ever that HCRP tells me “Pull it back, you’re pushing the pace!” and all I could say (and by ‘say’ I mean ‘gasp’) was “I can’t! I’m keeping pace with Billy Idol!”
Of course the “fast-forward to the next song” option . . . well . . . wasn’t an option in my brain.
Neither was the “pull out your earbuds” option an option.
This was Billy Freakin’ Idol!  You don’t fast-forward or earbud-pull-out Billy Idol!

Nope.
It was Me, Billy Idol, and The Trail for the next seven hours and eighty-five minutes. Because, really, in all truth that song isn’t only just three minutes and twenty-three seconds long. It lasts for-freakin’-ever when you’re running in time to the music and that tempo is way faster than your usual, comfortable Dave Matthews’ Band’s “American Baby” tempo.

If you haven’t yet, I’ll give you a minute to click on the links and listen to the differences in tempo.
Seriously.
I’m not going anywhere.

See what I mean?!

But I did it.
I kept that pace for the entire seven hours and eighty-five minutes and did not, in fact, drop dead.
Mr. Idol’s clear and early 80s pre-meditated wishes notwithstanding.

The run on the whole was great!
For a run that started with me:
A) Hitting ‘snooze’ not once, not twice, but three times;
B) Trying to convince HCRP that the light sprinkles of rain at 6:30 am were Our Sign to run later in the day; and
C) Him not listening to me At. All.
It rocked!

I felt great from start to finish with the possible exception of some knee less-than-greatness that was the result of a segment of our newly-chosen running path that is a fairly steep uphill ‘transition’ (what a lovely, easy sounding term) from one trail to another that is currently surfaced with loose gravel. The up-the-hill transition was no problem. The coming-back-down transition was notsomuch knee friendly for someone whose knees are notsomuch downhill appreciative.

Of course the reason my knees are notsomuch-downhill appreciative is my utter (and completely inexplicable) avoidance of getting to the gym for cross-training.
I don’t know why.
I actually enjoy weight lifting/strength training.
The first athletic thing I ever did in my life was taking a course in college called “Weight Training For Women” that I absolutely L-O-V-E-D!
I was bone thin back in those days courtesy of a rousingly ‘successful’ (thankfully short-term) episode of Anorexia that I was endeavoring to (kinda-sorta) overcome. I had to get some sort of physical education credit and there were really no other classes that interested me so I signed up for Weight Training For Women and absolutely loved it!

I learned a huge amount about training and muscle structure and the right and wrong ways to exercise (full range of motion, cross-training, resistance, front and back muscle relationships).
And I absolutely loved the way my body looked and felt with actual muscle structure rather than just skinniness.

All that aside, since I’ve taken up running the only time I’ve made it back into the gym was during the two months when I was rehabbing a raging case of Runner’s Knee. And of course that cross-training was a huge part of said rehabbing.
Given all that why don’t I go to the gym at least a couple days a week and cross-train?
I don’t knoooooow!
If I kneeeeww I’d be doing it.
So.
This is me committing to getting my happy butt out of the bed and into the gym for cross-training on Tuesdays and Fridays. (We run on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.)
No excuses.
Geez…
Nag much do ya’?

So back to my half-marathon training.
I am – FINALLY – seeing myself finishing my first Half-Marathon at all, let alone finishing it within my stated 3:00:00 time AND finishing it (in the words of Jeff Galloway) vertical, breathing, and ready to do the next one.

It really is a numbers game

It’s the number of times you run at the beginning because you said you were going to do this thing.

It’s the number of times going up and down the same stretch of access road you think you’re never going to see the other end of.

It’s the number of times a volunteer Coach tells you “You’re A Runner!” and you half-heartedly repeat after them “I’m a runner” whether it feels true or not.

It’s the number on the time clock when you cross your First Finish Line Running, not walking.

It’s the number of layers you pile on – and pull off because who knew you got THAT hot when it’s THAT cold out – running on cold winter evenings.  In the dark.

It’s the number of times you get to That Mile Marker on the trail until the one day you get to it realizing that you’re thinking “Already?!” instead of “Who freakin’ moved it?!?!”

It’s the number of times Hollaback Gurrrrl comes on your playlist at Just The Right Moment to keep you going when some part of your brain is thinking “We really don’t have to do this you know…”  Thank you Gwen Stefani!

It’s the number of walkers you pass thinking “Yes, we really are racing and I just totally lapped you!”

It’s hours sitting with ice packs and rolling various parts of your body on foam rollers and with your newly acquired little blue handball.

It’s the (arguably more enjoyable) hours spent soaking in the tub with Epsom Salts.

It’s the miles run in The Sweet Spot when everything – and I mean everything – is Absolute Perfection.  The birds sing sweeter, the skies are bluer, your legs move effortlessly, your feet barely touch the ground, and your lungs are just made of air itself.

It’s the Epic Superman Sprawl First Fall.  That you survive.  And finish the run it came in the middle of.  And get to show off the Battle Scars.

It’s the absolutely craptastic day at work that suddenly no longer matters when you realize you really did feel like putting in those miles.

It’s the number of runs (and miles) you missed, truly missed, running while rehabbing an injury.  And the race you had to pull out of before you even started it.

It’s the runs that suuuuuuuuuccckkkk….kkk…kkkk…K!

It’s the runs that go from Sweet Spot to suuuuuuuuuccckkkk….kkk…kkkk…K in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to win a medal.

It’s the other runners you pass along the trail who pass you again later and then you see each other over and over and over again because you’re both out there again and again.

And it’s the runs like tonight when it wasn’t perfect but it didn’t suck and at the end of the run you just feel good and you’re glad you ran.

That’s when the numbers add up and you know they’re going to keep on adding.  Right up to 13.1 and crossing That Finish Line!

Now, where was I?

I was running . . .

I fell . . .

I got up . . .

I kept running . . .

I showed off boo-boos . . .

Dang! Fifteen days since my last post? I would have sworn I’d written at least three brilliant, funny, epic posts about my recent runs. Oh. Wait. I left those on the trail.

Funny thing about that fall.
I showed my battered, bruised, swollen, and scabbed up elbow to non-runner friends and they winced and said “Oh no! That must really hurt!” (It did!)
I showed my battered, bruised, swollen, and scabbed up elbow to runner friends and they said “Nice!” while high-fiving me.
I really, really enjoyed those high-fives!

So yeah, I had My First Fall. And since then I’ve logged just under twenty miles. Not especially impressive for someone staring down her first Half Marathon in only twenty-six days. However I have actual reasons and even a note from my Doctor.  Well, a note from my Licensed Massage Therapist aka The Exorcist.

I was referred to said ‘practitioner’ (she’s not practicing anything – she has perfected this) by one of my Running Friends/Gurus/Mentors who also happens to be one of the funniest bloggers I know. (Check’s in the mail, right TLC??)
I am, with my dear friend Terri Lee, the proud owner of a whole collection of little blue balls. I have one in my gym bag, one in the trunk of the car, one in the messenger bag I carry to and from work, and one floating around somewhere so that I always have access to one.
And yes, I’m using it.
And yes, it’s helping.

I learned a couple things.
First: My grasp of muscular anatomy isn’t quite what I thought it was.
Second: My problem was not, in fact, my Tensor Fasciae Latae, my problem was my Gluteus Medius.
So much for a mid-life career switch to medicine.

Another bit of newness for me is that three times in the past week I have had Thoroughly Craptabulous Days and rather than wanting to go home and either drown my stresses in a frosty adult beverage(s) or faceplant into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack (thank you Jimmy Fallon wherever you are), I wanted to lace up my running shoes and just pound it out on the trail.
And.
I felt better after I did.
Huh. Who knew?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were still frosty adult beverages – after all beer is a great recovery beverage – and yes there has been ice cream. Just not an entire pint of it all at once hunched in my corner of the couch like Gollum with a gold ring hissing at anyone who came within hissing distance. (My name is Julianne and I am a stress/comfort eater…)

But this whole “running as stress relief” thing is still new to me.

Of course when a tight/painful/limiting butt muscle is the source of your stress . . . well that’s when you just hobble along the trail letting the angry tears flow hoping and praying you don’t run into anyone you know because they’ll be honor-bound to stop and ask if you’re okay and then you’ll fall completely to pieces on them and while it is acceptable to sweat all over people after a run snotting on someone’s favorite tech shirt is just so not cool.

And you tell yourself that this is not, in fact, the end of your fledgling running career.
And you tell yourself that cutting your nine mile run short to 8.21 miles really is the Smart Thing To Do.
And you tell yourself that finishing that abbreviated run walking the last mile of that 8.21 miles is better than not being able to start Monday night’s short run.
And you laugh at the irony of Billy Joel’s I Go To Extremes coming on your shuffled playlist at Just That Moment.
And you finish the run walking and remind yourself that you got further than you would have on the couch with Ben and Jerry and Jimmy Fallon.

And!
AND!!
I can’t believe I almost forgot this part . . .
We had run the same trail where I had My Epic First Faceplant twice since said EFF and both times I opted to take the ‘other leg’ of the trail rather than running the boardwalk that was my little Waterloo. I rationalized the decision as erring on the side of caution. After all, I’m a month out from my First Half Marathon and really didn’t want to chance another uneven board causing another fall.
I was scared.
Who wouldn’t be?
I mean seriously. Trip me once shame on you, trip me twice shame on me and I’m notsomuch a fan of shame.
Yesterday even before we got to The Split in the trail where it was Boardwalk or No Boardwalk HCRP asked “Are we taking the Boardwalk or th…” and I cut him off with a (possibly more hostile than necessary) “BLEEP NO! I have a Half to run in less than a month! I’m not chancing it.” and we took The Other Trail.

We got to the turnaround and headed back and the closer we got to the other end of The Split the madder I got at The Boardwalk and at my own fear of The Boardwalk. And when we got there I pointed right and said to HCRP “Screw this! I’m making this thing my bitch today!” and I got to the end of it and let out my little war whoop and yelled back over my shoulder “Take that Boardwalk!”
I despise being limited by fear. So there’s one less fear causing me to (quite literally) alter my course.

And that’s where I was and where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Lessons From The Fall

Lessons not “Legends”.
If you’ve come here looking for ruminations on the 1994 Brad Pitt Epic “tale of three brothers and their father living in the remote wilderness of 1900s USA and how their lives are affected by nature, history, war, and love.” you are going to be sorely disappointed.

No, this is all about the lessons I learned tonight when my Worst Fear About Running became A Reality.  I fell.  Not some cute little “Oopsie doodle!” mis-step that had me losing a step or two.  No.  This was a full-body, Superman sprawl of a fall.  To my credit although I did go straight, flat-forward down I didn’t actually “face” plant.  It was more of a knee/elbow plant.  I’m fine.  My elbow looks rough, but thankfully Ye Olde Knee shows no signs of being any the worse for the wear.  Thank You Lord for that!

Back to my post title.  I came away from this little experience slightly worse, but far wiser for the wear. Here are my Lessons From The Fall:

  1. It isn’t the fall, it’s the fear of the fall that’ll getcha!
    As previously stated: Falling has been my Worst Fear since I started running last summer.  Okay, maybe my second Worst Fear behind snakes on the trail and finding a dead body.  Technically that dead-body-finding thing doesn’t count since it isn’t technically running related, it’s a lifelong fear with absolutely zero basis in experience.  And totally not germane to the point.

    But the Snakes On The Trail thing? Yeah, that’s real and definitely running related since most of the trails we run on are in an urban park and go through wooded areas that are “in their natural state”.  And really if I do run into a snake on the trail what are the chances that Samuel L. Jackson is going to show up to kill it with the force of his profanity?  See?  This is a real fear.
    Back to falling.  Falling is also a real, running related fear.  I hate falling.  It is: A) Embarrassing; B) Painful; and C) Potentially running career ending.  And tonight it became: D) A Reality.  And in so doing I learned that – in all truth – the fear of a thing actually is worse than the thing happening itself.
    Oh, it wasn’t fun!  And I will do everything in my power to avoid it happening again. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had built it up to being in my brain.
    It was also divine providence that it wasn’t any worse than it was.  I was on a boardwalk rather than pavement; there were no other runners (HCRP notwithstanding) around to witness my humiliation; and most of all there were no cyclists coming up fast behind us because when I Supermanned it I sprawled myself out in fabulous fashion all across the middle of the trail that had no shoulder for anyone to dive off onto to avoid plowing over me.
  2. You never know what you’re going to do until you’ve done it!
    The instant the toe of my right shoe caught on the uneven board I knew I was going down.  It was unavoidable because gravity isn’t just a good idea, it’s The Law.  I managed to land sprawled face down with neither my face nor my forehead making contact with the boards.  Once I was down and realized the falling part was over my first impulse was to hop back up and keep running.  As I was rolling over to a sitting position I realized “Holy Crap!  I just fell!”  Of course my first ‘rational’ thought was to make sure I hadn’t shattered my phone that was tucked in the armband.  (I didn’t.)
    HCRP helped me to my feet and at first, again, I started to turn back in the direction we’d been heading and take off.  HCRP, in his infinite wisdom and good sense, stopped me and suggested I do a ‘damage assessment’ which sounded like a good idea so I did.  that was when I discovered that my left elbow had likely taken much of the brunt and of all the moving parts was going to be the worst for the wear.  We walked along while I caught my breath, determined that all 2,000 parts were in working order, and then we started jogging again.  That’s when it hit me that: A) I freakin’ FELL; and B) I got up and kept on running.  Of course that “I freakin FELL” think came out of my mouth with a slightly more colorful descriptor, but still.  Instead of crying or quitting or crying and quitting I kept going.
    HCRP’s assessment of this reaction was “Well, you’re really a distance runner now, you’re a masochist!”
  3. Adrenalin is over-rated.
    And, in (more of) HCRP’s inimitable and insightful words: Adrenalin can be an asset in a race, but this isn’t exactly the best way to get it.  Personally, I found it to be more hindrance than help since it was the adrenalin rush that had me wanting to pop right back up and keep running.
  4. Timing is, as they say, everything!
    If I were going to have ‘scheduled’ this it couldn’t have come on a better night since I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning to address my ongoing TFL tightness/soreness that just happens with no identifiable cause.
    It doesn’t always happen during a run, or after a run, or even before a run.  It just happens and hurts.
    It isn’t on both sides, just the left.
    It isn’t a pull.  It feels more bruised than any other sensation.  I haven’t pulled anything.
    Yes, I’ve been using my foam roller.  Religiously.  Okay except tonight because I can’t use my left hand to support my weight.
    So I’m going to see a doctor in my PCP’s office who is a runner to get her input and possibly a referral to a physical therapist.  And praying she doesn’t say the dreaded word: R-E-S-T.  I have 40 days til my first Half Marathon and I am finally beginning to see myself doing this thing.  I really don’t want to have that taken away from me.  Again.

In Olympic Watching news, I woke up at 4:50 am this morning to watch The Women’s Marathon and was absolutely dumbfounded by these women!  Somewhere in the instant before my right toe caught and all those lessons started being learned I think in my brain I was one of them for about half a second.
Oscar Pistorius absolutely humbles and inspires me.  I watched him in his semi-final run as I was pecking away at this post and was in tears as he ran with nothing but the pure joy and triumph of being where he was doing what he was doing.
Kirani James doubled those tears when he asked to trade name tags.  That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what The Olympics are about.

And now it’s late and I’m tired and it’s time for bed.
Thanks for slogging through all this.  I’ll likely read this in the morning and wonder what I was thinking.
But for now, I’m okay with it all.