We run. We learn. We suffer Ignominity.

In the one year and roughly ten months since I laced up my theretofore walking shoes and set out on my first outing as a runner I have learned many things.

  1. That I can, in fact, run!  Not just run “because zombies/people with big guns/IRS agents/Student Loan collectors are chasing me”, but run because I want to and I actually enjoy doing it.
  2. That falling on a run is generally never as bad as we imagine it will be before we’ve done it.
  3. That sometimes when one adopts a major lifestyle change, other people aren’t so much fans of it.  And that’s okay.  They don’t have to be.
  4. That if you push yourself past one “I’ve never/I could never” boundary you start looking for others to barrel over.
    I started running saying “I’ll only ever want to run 5Ks.  I have no need to ever run A Marathon!”  I currently have several 5Ks, three 10Ks, and a Half under my laces, and now those laces are with me as I train for what? A Marathon.
  5. That once you open yourself up to One Big, New Thing other Bigger, Newer Things follow quickly in its wake and your life becomes the Biggest, Newest Thing of them all.
  6. Tonight I learned that I can, in fact, stay on an elliptical for more than 1.5 miles and it will not kill me.
    And by “stay on” I don’t mean just stand there texting and flirting with the weight lifters (seen it!).  I mean “stay on” as in actually moving the foot sleds in an appropriate rotational motion over and over and over and over again for all of 3.0 miles!  And I didn’t quit.  Not even when my quads were screaming in two part harmony “Get thee to a treadmill woman!”  (They didn’t say “woman” but Mother will be sorely disappointed if I repeat their little potty-mouthed commentaries.)

Like many other runners I’ve come to love reading about running.  Amby Burfoot, Christopher McDougall, Hal Higdon, and George Sheehan are my new Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman.  Runner’s World has replaced O and Real Simple.
Most of my “Liked” pages on Facebook have to do with running.
And our social life revolves around races, either running them or volunteering with our running club because that’s another running is: A community.

But I’m digressing a bit here . . .
Back to the reading about running . . .

As I’ve read about running I’ve come to the conclusion that there certain Inevitable Ignominious Interludes in the life of every runner.  After Sunday’s run I’ve knocked two off the list. It was actually during Sunday’s run (which was supposed to be Saturday’s run but got put off due to circumstances beyond our control) that this list came to me.  So here I will share:

The Runner’s List of (mostly) Inevitable Ignominious Interludes

  1. Falling.  Otherwise known as face-planting.
    Been there, done that.  Got the high fives from other runners!
  2. Eating a bug.  Covered this one on Sunday.  Okay, kindasorta covered it…
    There I was running along and feeling pretty good given that Sunday was “Suddenly Summer Day” here in our fair metrolopolis when *ack* *cough* *gag* I felt the distinctive sensation of a bug hitting the roof of my mouth.  Thank God my lightening quick “I don’t want to choke to death alone on this trail” reflex kicked in and I managed to trap it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth and spit it out before I ended up curled up on the trail praying for a Heimlich Certified ‘nother runner to come along before I gasped my last gasp.
  3. Spitting/Being Spat Upon
    Much like everyone poops (the cute children’s book, not the runner version – I’m getting to that) every runner spits.
    I learned to spit.
    Unlike my little sister and her childhood BFF Angie I did not hone my spitting skills at a young age.  I was blessed to have a Southern Grandmother who instilled in me a strong sense of what Young Ladies do and do not do.  Spitting ranked high on that list.  Little Sister had the same Southern Grandmother, she just didn’t care about The List.
    However, once you become a runner many otherwise socially unacceptable behaviors become necessities.  Spitting is high on that list.  It didn’t take me too many runs to learn that swallowing too much water while running would more than likely lead to ignominity #5 or #6, so my ever-patient HCRP worked with me on the vital skill of “Swish and Spit”.
    But with great power comes great responsibility and in the case of spitting one must learn to look left, look right, look right again, then spit.  To the right.  I have yet to spit on another runner and, thankfully, I have yet to be spat upon.  My days are, obviously, numbered.
  4. Snot Rockets.
    I’m reasonably certain I just lost every single non-runner who’s ever stumbled across this blog with those two little words.  But runners know the nose knows and sometimes you just got to blow.

    I actually saw Kara Goucher blow a snot rocket at the Starting Line of the New Orleans Half this year and was shocked when I found myself respecting her style instead of being utterly disgusted. Another “I’m A Real Runner Now!” moment.
  5. Puking.
    There are a host of reasons why puking happens in running: Nerves, fueling too close to your run, changing what you eat to fuel before a run the day of a race (never, ever, ever do this!), consuming too much water or sports beverages during a run (hence the importance of mastering the Swish and Spit), and heat (a big one down here in Dixie).  And the one that I think maybe about 10% of us ever really do: Leaving absolutely everything on the course and having nothing but the waning contents of your stomach to leave at the Finish Line.
  6. Peeing.
    As in down one’s own leg, not just in general.
    Again, a number of factors can lead to this, but it generally comes down to either skipping a port-o-john or being so intent to PR or win that you honestly don’t care about anything else and stopping is not an option!  (I can assure you this one will likely never happen to me. If I have to choose between peeing anywhere but down my own leg or pretty much anything else, the “anything else” is out the window.)
  7. Remember: Everybody Poops
    And sometimes runners poop . . .  well . . . on the run.
    This is one that easily 99% of us will never, ever experience because we don’t run that far or that hard.  But it does happen.  To the Extreme Runners.  And from what I gather, they really don’t give a crap!  Okay, they do but not the way most of the rest of us would.  They’re too busy being awesome and superhuman to care about such.  In fact, at that level, I’m pretty certain it’s almost a badge of honor.
    However, if you’re concerned about preventing this in your own running experience I had a little time Sunday during The Longest 2.75 Mile Run Ever to come up with my personal list of Things That (might) Make You Go Poo:
    Changing your pre-run/race fueling foods. This is not the time to change partners in mid-dance people!  Replacing peanut butter with almond butter is probably perfectly safe, just not right before running.  Tummies are funny things.
    Switching sports drinks.  If you’re a Gatorade drinker switching to Powerade is probably best done on a rest day just in case there really is a substantive difference in their chemical composition.  (This is a lesson I learned from personal experience, thankfully not during a run or race.)
    Deciding that the night before a race (or run) is the perfect time to try “Thai Hot” for the very first time.  It isn’t.  It never will be.

I am certain, because I’m still a Running Newbie, that I’ve either missed or completely mis-conceived something in this list.  But if you’re Running Newbier than me I’m probably not too far from right.

Amby Burfoot saved my marathon!

A couple weeks ago I ordered this book:

 

Its home is in the basket in our Reading Room.  You know, the bathroom.  C’mon everybody reads in there and you can admit it here, we’re all friends and this is a safe place.
This morning I picked it up and started reading.  It opens with such promise with the words “Anyone can run a marathon.”  This is exactly what I want to hear/read.  I’m “anyone”!  I can run a marathon!  And I gleefully continued reading the Introduction, About the Runner’s World Challenge, About the Authors, then on to Training which also has a very promising start.  “Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles is no small task, to be sure.  But anyone who has done it will tell you that getting to the finish line isn’t the tough part – getting to the starting line is.”  Having run that 13.1 I can attest to that.  The race itself was really almost a denouement after the weeks and months of training and anticipation.  But it was still one of the coolest freakin’ experiences of my life!
So I kept reading and everything is peachie groovy until I get to this: Build a base. As long as you’ve been running at least four times a week for about 6 months and you’re in the habit of exercising regularly, you should be able to complete a marathon or half-marathon training program without a problem. . . . If you’ve been running only sporadically and have to give your weekly routine an extreme makeover to start training, it’s going to be tough to stick with it.  Plus, you’re bound to end up with any variety of overuse injuries that come from doing too much too soon, . . .”
And that, my friends, was not exactly what I wanted to read/hear.  It wasn’t even in the same zip code as what I wanted to read/hear.  I’m not 100% certain it was even on the same continent.  Because let’s face facts: Being out of running for ten weeks doesn’t exactly qualify as “running at least four times a week for about six months” and was definitely much more akin to “running only sporadically and have to give your weekly routine an extreme makeover to start training”.  So there I sat numb-butted and heartsunk.
Great!  Just freakin’ great!  I have told everyone I know and a fair number of complete strangers “I’m going to run my first full marathon this year!”  And now I am presented with pretty irrefutable evidence that I’m not even ready to start training for said event, let alone successfully and without injury completing the training for said said event, let alone getting through said said said event without some part of my body being irrevocably damaged or falling off completely.
The next section was titled (ominiously at this point) Time it right.  Awesome!  Exactly what I have failed to do!  I began reading.  Okay I began skimming the words because really, who cares anymore?  Clearly this isn’t in the cards for me.  And as I flip to page 4 (doesn’t take much to dash my dreams now does it?) I glance at the bottom of the page and there’s a pen and ink drawing of none other than one of My Running Heroes, and author of my favorite book on Running Philosophy, Mr. Amby Burfoot staring at me from one of those little sidebar boxes you sometimes see on the sides or bottoms of pages of books.  And what are the first words Amby has to contribute to this Marathon Training Bible?  Let me share with you.  Amby’s opening salvo was this: Most experts think you should work up to marathons and half-marathons slowly and gradually.  Not helping me here Amby old buddy old pal . . .  blah, blah a few 5Ks… blah, blah what I think you should do, too.  Except for this difference: I’m willing to acknowledge the power of the marathon and half-marathon to “grab” runners and motivate them to jump into the unknown.  So if it grabs you hard, I say: What the heck, go for it! But remember this: You have to be very realistic about your expectations.  I’m realistic about my expectations!  I am very realistic about my expectations!  Unless you’re young and fit (I’m middle-aged and kinda fit!), you’ll have to do most of your training on a run-walk pattern. I do all my training – heck all my races – on a run-walk pattern!  I am back in the game now baby!  Thank you Amby Burfoot wherever you are!
So I’m not giving up the dream.
I have four months to get back in condition, and after today’s four miler I can safely say I am soooo not in condition, but I have four months to get back to there before we begin Hal Higdon’s thirty week training program that is based on a run-walk pattern.

Speaking of today’s four miler, it wasn’t the prettiest run ever, but it was definitely one of the most heartfelt.  I felt my heart pounding in my chest nearly every running step I was taking.  And I’m almost certain part of the 3.5 pounds the doctor removed might possibly have included one of my lungs because there was a definite loss in air capacity going on.  I ended up finishing the four miles in 53:19 and maintained an average pace of 13:11 minutes per mile.  Interestingly enough the first mile was my jackrabbit mile and we were running straight into a good 10 mph headwind.  Which might be part of why it was my fastest mile.  I get a little ‘deadset and bygod determined’ when going into a headwind.
And I had to keep reminding myself (during and after) that I haven’t run in ten weeks and in the middle of all that not running I had surgery and my body is still recovering from that surgery.  Just because things are no longer shades of black and blue and feeling more bruised than they look doesn’t mean I’m back to 100%.  I’m still healing.  Healing requires energy and my body is going to appropriate energy for that before anything else.

But getting back to that marathon training thing.  Thursday evening, with the input/advice of a couple of fitness trainer friends, I finalized our training program which we are following effective immediately.
Sunday: Rest Day 
Monday: Short run & upper body strength training
Tuesday: Yoga (which will help with core strengthening)
Wednesday: Mid-length run
Thursday: Short run & upper body strength training
Friday: Yoga (again with the core thing)
Saturday: Long run
Yesterday my running mentor/buddy Tonia came up to my work and we did a 45 minute yoga session focusing on poses that target core strengthening.  Can I just say two things about said Yoga workout?
#1 If you think Yoga “isn’t a real workout” you are doing it wrong!
#2 If you think Yoga has nothing to do with core strengthening you are really doing it wrong!
Yoga is about nothing but core work. That’s where the balance comes from.
You also have to breathe.  If you hold your breath or forget to focus on pulling your navel towards your spine you will fall over.  I promise!
Today every muscle that’s supposed to be around the middle of my body is letting me know that I was, in fact, doing it right.  And I need to continue doing it right until it no longer hurts (as much).
I have a feeling that’s going to go for marathon training in general.

Last night HCRP was looking for a picture on his computer and came across some “Before” pictures he took of me in August 2011 about a month after I started running.
Not.  Pretty.
I got all cute and decided that I wanted to stage “After” pictures wearing the same shorts.  So this evening we did.
I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed at the overall changes in my body.  I’m nearly twenty pounds lighter, but other than the obvious pre- and post-op differences in my chest I just don’t see as much of a change as I know has taken place.
I’m down two full jeans sizes, my butt is (or was before my ‘sabbatical’) ‘higher and tighter’, my arms are a lot leaner and stronger.  (Who knew you developed guns from running?)  But I have to say I’m just not seeing all the differences.
I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth fifteen in my head about posting the pictures here or not, and I’ve finally decided “What the heck, go for it!”  I mean if Amby can say that about training to run a marathon, what’s a couple less-than-flattering pictures between friends?
B&A Front B&A Side

They say running is as much a mental sport as a physical one, so I’m going to adopt that same philosophy towards changes in one’s body.  I know they took place so I’m to trust in that and know that the work I’m putting in now will result in even more – and more visible – changes in the coming months.
When you speak of this, and you will speak of this, be kind.