Jack Rabbit Starts and Turtle Finishes

Running is a funny thing.
It’s a competitive sport and a personal endeavor.
It’s the journey and the destination.
It’s the starts and the finishes.
And it is everything in between.

But today I find myself thinking about those starts and finishes.

When I first started running I instinctively started slow and easy.  I was new at it so the tentativeness was natural.  And at the beginning I started every run wondering if this was going to be The One where The Truth that I really couldn’t run and really didn’t have any business even trying was going to bring me to some painful, screeching halt once and for all.
That never happened.
Just like my first fall wasn’t as bad as the fear of the fall.
Just like neither of the legless beasts I’ve encountered on the trail have struck or strangled me.  (With or without Samuel L. Jackson…)
Just like there have been no dead bodies along the trail.  (Rational or not, it’s my irrational fear.  Don’t judge me.)

And so I ran.  And and kept running.  And wrote about running.  And ran some runs just for the sake of having a run to write about.
Eventually (last month) all that running led me to doing something that hadn’t ever been on my radar ever anywhere in the history of my radar – I ran a Half Marathon!
And it felt great!
So much so that part of me was a little afraid to run again for fear of never feeling That Good about a run ever again anywhere in the future of my running or my radar.

But I ran anyway.
And on that first run a full week after the Half I took off like I’d been shot out of a cannon!  My first mile was a full 32 seconds faster (per mile) than my normal, consistent 12 minute per mile (with a walking interval) pace.  I. Was. Gettin’. It!
And it felt great!
Until it didn’t felt so great around mile three which I finished almost a full minute slower than my normal, consistent 12 minute per mile (with a walking interval) pace.
*le sigh*

So the next run I started all the happy self-talk reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race and that I run with endurance – not speed – the race set before me and that it’s better to start slow and finish strong and every other running ‘ism about starts and finishes known to running mankind.
And I took off like I’d been shot out of another cannon!
And I jack rabbited that first mile and turtled, if not the last one at least one towards the end.

In case you think I’m beating the whole “Tortoise and The Hare” fairy tale to death, let me share something with you.  Below is how Endomondo (best running program I’ve found for smartphones by the way) gives race splits.

See? Rabbit.  Turtle.

See the result of that jack rabbit start?  Turtle finish.  Not fun.

From a running perspective I need to get that under control.
After all nobody – and I mean not one running body – wants to finish a race walking across a finish line because you left everything in the first mile.  That is an especially bad strategy for longer races.  Like my upcoming St. Jude Half Marathon.  And it sure ain’t gonna work for doing the St. Jude Full next year!
Incidentally I’m running as a St. Jude Hero and if you’d like to help me raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital go here and thank you!

It’s also notsomuch a great strategy for life.
And says a lot about how I’ve gone through life and why this is the first time in my life I’ve done something physical that lasted more than three months.
Well other than pregnancy.  That was certainly physical and certainly lasted longer than three months!

How you start a thing determines how you finish it.
And that turtle didn’t start that race even trying to keep pace with that rabbit and look how that worked out for him!

It’s still a PR! Right?!

We ran a 10K this morning, HCRP and I.  Well technically it was HCRP, me, and about 600 other people.  This was a first time 5K/10K for a local organization I have a world of respect and gratitude for.  In the early years of my life here in Memphis CHC was my Primary Care Physician.  I worked for either small businesses that couldn’t afford to offer health insurance; or for wages that didn’t allow for my portion of the premium.  So when either my son or I were sick that was where we went.
The first affordable health insurance coverage I was ever offered was their MEMPHIS Plan which I believe is a model for other communities and their medical communities!
/Steps off Soapbox . . .

My first 10K was back in June and I beat my stated goal time of 1:15:00 by 29 seconds.
My stated goal time for today’s race was 1:10:00 and I missed it by 54 seconds.

But I still beat my last time so that makes it a PR and I’ll take it!
It is still a PR even if it’s only your second race of a particular distance.  Right?  Of course right!

We’ve been running, building up miles towards December’s St. Jude Half Marathon.
Last Sunday we ran one of our local greenway trails.  “Greenway” translates to “There are probably snakes out here!” and there were.  Right around a mile into our seven mile (utterly craptabulous from Step One) run there was one of THESE right smack dab in the middle of the trail.  (WARNING: It’s a wikipedia page about the Nerodia Rhombifer.)
And of course Samuel L. Jackson was nowhere to be found with his mighty powers of snake defying profanity.  (WARNING: There’s a lot of Samuel L. cursing at that link.  Mom, I warned you.)  Thanks Sam.  I’ll keep this in mind the next time you need running advice or a home-cooked meal or pretty much anything else.  This is twice man.  Twice.  Not.  Cool.
Given Samuel L’s betrayal . . . err . . . absence HCRP came to my rescue by going around the snake first, creating a distraction so that I could pass unnoticed by the legless beast.
(I am not a fan of snakes.  In case you haven’t picked up on that particular vibe.)

Update on Project AwesomeBoobs
(Name suggested by one of my uber-cool online friends)
Got home from work yesterday to find a letter from my insurance provider informing me that they have APPROVED my “Reduction Mammography”.  I am approved for 0 (as in zero) Visits and 2 Procedures.  I’m guessing that’s one for each side or something.  It struck me as funny anyway.

So this afternoon following my PR setting 10K I could think of no better way to celebrate than to switch out my Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter wardrobes.  And since I was pulling every stitch of clothing out of the closet I figured I’d go ahead and divest myself of the things that no longer fit.  Which is most of my Spring/Summer shorts, skirts, and everything from the waist down.
I started last summer in a size 16 and am now wearing a 10 in jeans and a 12 in slimmer cut skirts, etc.  That’s from the waist down.  Waist up I’m still a 16.
Anyway, as I was going through Le Wardrobe I started looking at my Spring/Summer tops and blouses and realized that next year I will be swimming in them!

This really is going to be a substantial change in every area of my life.
Last weekend HCRP and I were strolling through Macy’s and it hit me that for the first time in . . . well . . . ever I am going to be able to wear button-up blouses without using dress tape or safety pins.  I very nearly cried standing there looking at a really cute, size 10 blouse.

A friend – a couple of them actually – had suggested that I see a therapist between now and when I have this done next February.

Oh.  And yeah.  My target date is Tuesday, February 26th.  I’ll be calling Dr. Awesome Boobs’ office on Monday to get that on his schedule.

And speaking of “between now and then” I’ve also been advised by other women who’ve had this done that if I have any more weight I want to lose I need to try and do that before the surgery.  I happen to have a few pounds I’d like to go forward without, so I’ll be beginning that effort next week.
Several months ago I came across the documentary Fat Sick & Nearly Dead on Netflix and I was absolutely riveted by it.  I watched it three times in as many days then made HCRP watch it with me one afternoon.  I’ve decided to kick off my efforts by following Joe’s Reboot Your Life program.
Before you jump me about ‘extreme diets’ and ‘boomerang effect’ and ‘fads’ go the the Reboot Your Life link up there and click the link to watch the film free on Hulu.  THAT – if nothing else – is how I know this guy is for real.  He has put his entire film (that he otherwise sells on DVD) out there For Free to get the message out.  AND the plans and a ton of recipes are available For Free on that site as well.
I’ve researched and considered this for several weeks and I think the two week reboot is going to be good for me.

So now my Running Blog has become a Running and Breast Reduction Blog and Pre-Breast Reduction Weight Loss.
Who saw that coming?!

When I said “Running changed my life” I really had very little idea exactly what all that was going to entail.

Jillian Michaels: Pace Buster!

Wherein our intrepid heroine chooses an audiobook by her favorite motivational celebriwriter instead of her tried and true Running Pace Playlist and learns a thing or two . . .

HCRP and I have been really bad runners the past couple weeks.
We haven’t really been getting our miles in.

We haven’t really been very consistent with our runs.
This is pretty risky behavior for two people who are only about seven weeks out from a half marathon.
Oh sure, we just finished one last month but those are hardly laurels one can rest on for 13.1 miles two and a half months later.

HCRP, for his part, has been having some tightness in his sartorius muscle.
I know this not because of my extensive studies of human anatomy or my secret, night school medical diploma.  I know this because today he saw The Exorcist.  She made famous by the equally famous Terri Lee in her groundbreaking blog about running, a dog, a cat, and life in general.
Anyway, he has had a reasonable reason to cut back on his running.  In fact, he was grounded from running by Le Exorciste.  Which is what led to yours truly – the aforementioned Intrepid Heroine – running sans the RP portion of HCRP.

For whatever crazy reason I decided to run listening to one of my many audiobooks.  I say “crazy reason” because I rely on my running play list to keep me on my trusty 12:00 min/mile running pace.
Yes, I said “rely” and I do.  I’m weak.
And a huge fan of music on my runs.
One of these days I’ll become one of Those Runners who just lace up their Asics, head out the door, and pound out the miles.  But for now there’s this whole ‘gearing up’ thing I go through with the industrial strength running bra, strap pads (see previous link), water belt, and since I’ve done All That why not go ahead and take the iPhone and ear buds?  Because really, what’s a run without technology?  (And there’s that whole Safety Issue to having one’s phone with one on a run in case one falls and can’t get up…)  However, I digress…

Crap!
Where was I?
iPhone for safety…
running bra/strap pads…
Those Runners…
Oh!  Now I remember!  Running with Jillian Michaels!

So I fire up Jillian’s (I call her ‘Jillian’ because we’re tight like that me and Jillian) Unlimited and get to running!
And everything feels great from Step One!  I’m talkin’ Tony The Tiger on a Saturday Morning commercial in the middle of Scooby Doo They’re Grrrrrrrrrreat!” great!
After the first five minute running interval The Endomondo Lady pipes up and says “Two Minutes – Low Intensity” so I slow to a brisk walk, take a sip of water, and wait (a little more impatiently than usual) for her to say “Five Minutes.  Medium Intensity”.
Somewhere along the way it registers in my brain that rather than getting to the “Two Minutes.  Low Intensity” interval before the half mile marker on the trail, I got to that interval after the half mile marker which can only mean one thing: I must be running quicker than my regular pace.  And it felt Tony The Tiger Grrrrrrrrrreat!
Endomondo Lady pipes back up, we run for five minutes – just me, Jillian, and Endomondo lady – and again are past the one mile marker before reaching the next “Two Minutes.    Low Intensity” cue.  This really can mean only one thing: I really am running – comfortably and completely on my own – faster than a twelve minute mile!  FOR an entire mile!

And this isn’t one of those Jillian Michaels Biggest Loser Screaming Trainer type books I’m listening to.  She is, dare I say, downright sedate and soothing in (most of) her delivery in Unlimited.  It’s a “Love your life and live a life you love” book, not a “Get off your fat ass (sorry mom) and run until you vomit!” book.  And (we now pause for a word from our non-sponsor) it’s really a good book.  At least I think so.  So does my “I’m not a fan of Jillian” friend/running buddy-mentor Tonia.

At the end of the run I did 4.40 miles in 50:42 and averaged 11:32 min/mile.
Which can mean only one thing, two things really:
#1: I can reduce my time and run faster!
#2: I really need to listen to Jillian Michaels when I’m running in races!

A PR and A Crossroad

HCRP and I joined another couple we’re friends with running a 5K Race this morning.
As 5K races go this one was relatively small (I’m guessing under 200).  Of course earlier in the week I’d heard someone say there were FIVE 5Ks in our area today.
Which I still find puzzling for a city that consistently ranks among “America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities”.  I digress . . .

Given the small number of runners there was this little imp in the back of my brain elbowing me and whispering “You might actually medal in your age group!”
I didn’t.
I came in fourth (I think – no Official Results yet) in Women 45 – 49.
And I’m good with that.
No, I don’t know the answer to “Fourth out of how many Julianne?” I placed way ahead of the me who was happily, complacently, and sedentarily on my couch two years ago and in my book that falls under “W” for WIN!

What I did do is PR* this race!
My previous 5K PR was 34:35 in November 2011.
Today the clock read 33:50 when I planted my foot across the Finish Line.
So in eleven months I’ve taken 45 seconds off my 5K time.
Not bad for someone who really hasn’t been working on speed or to reduce race time.

Which brings me to The Crossroads.  Not that Crossroads, although I live within a couple hours’ drive of that Crossroads, that’s not the one I’m talking about.
No, I have reached a Training Crossroads.

Here’s the deal:
I can run a 5K in a respectable amount of time.  I have run several 5Ks and fully intend to run several more.
I have run a 10K in a somewhat less respectable time.  But still, I’ve run one and I know what to do better for the next one (in three weeks actually).
I have trained for and completed a Half Marathon in what I consider a respectable time.  And in a time that HCRP and my Runner Friends said was a respectable time for a first Half.

The Crossroads I stand at is this:
I can continue to train as I’ve been training, focusing on consistency and endurance, and be content with my consistent 35 minute-ish finishes.
OR
I can begin using my short (3 – 4 mile) runs to do speed training to reduce those 5K and 10K finish times; continue using the mid and long runs to work on endurance and consistency in Halfs; and start looking towards the really long runs** that will be required next year when I begin training for the 2013 St. Jude Full Marathon.

*le sigh*
And so it begins.
Goal Setting.
Running Goals.
Training Goals.
Dear Sweet Asics, what fresh h*ll of life lessons is this going to bring?!

Lexicon for my non-running reader(s): (Hey!  There could be more than one!)
*PR = Personal Record
Sometimes called a ‘PB’ or Personal Best.
This is a runner’s personal competition with the runner in their own shoes.
Often more important than finishing “First” or “Last”. It’s all about Better!

**”really long runs” being defined as 15 – 20 miles or possibly further.
Yes, I really am just that crazy.

Not sure why . . .

I have plenty of thoughts on my first Half Marathon.

Starting, of course, with: I DID IT!!  I FREAKIN’ DID IT!!

And I have come here several times to share them all.

But for some reason I just couldn’t put the words down.

No matter how much I wanted to come here and talk about so many things about the race.
To talk about how the entire first mile was spent getting my legs and lungs to remember that they have, in fact, worked well together.
To talk about The World’s Best Total Stranger Running Buddy Ever.  Erin.  Who understood when, after ‘warning’ her before we started that “I’m not a talker when I run”, I suddenly became a Chatty Cathy with my string pulled during every walking interval after about Mile 5.
To share my admiration for Robert, the easily 400 pound man we met at the start of the race, who was planning to walk the Half in 4:00:00 as part of his ongoing fitness efforts to insure that he’ll be around and able to keep up with his ten month old daughter.
To marvel at the completely barefoot Marathoner who whizzed past Erin and me at about our Mile 12 which was like his Mile 25.
To feel pretty dang good about the fact that I wasn’t the woman who ended up flat on her back with her legs cramping, screaming in pain because she never stopped at any water stops and wasn’t carrying her own water at about the same Mile 12.  I felt bad for her, but was so grateful I wasn’t her.
To tell you about the 80-something year old man wearing the singlet that said “I’m running on a donated heart valve.”
And the people running with shirts screen-printed with the pictures of family members who had served our country in the same United States Air Force as my father and husband.
To share the pictures of the Finisher’s Medal, my bib number that had my name on it, of me and Erin with our FMs.
To express my gratitude to Erin for keeping me going those couple times when I wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way.  Even if a tiny little bit of that did come from my ego commanding “We will not let this twenty-something year old girl see us quit!”
To brag on HCRP for beating his own Goal Time!

To say “Thank You!” to every runner who has given me counsel, advice, slowed up their own pace to run with me, encouraged me when they saw me struggling along the trail.  And especially to Terri Lee, DJ, Marian, and Donnie.  They know why.
To give a shout-out to my dear friend Tonia who sent me a message via The Endomondo Lady encouraging me at Mile 10 JUST when she knew I’d need it!
To thank my dear friend Tina who came down to be there at the Finish Line to cheer for me whether I heard her or not and who didn’t mind the sweaty-runner post-race hug one bit!

And to tell you what I told my dad before the race:
The first 6.5 miles were for my father who served from 1959 through 1979.
The second 6.5 miles were for my husband who served from 1989 through 2009.
But that last 0.1? That right there, that was for me!
And that’s how I ran it!

It’s probably the same reason I haven’t felt overly pushed to get a run in any evening this week – despite the Oh My Starz! perfect running weather we’ve had all week for the first time in forever.
I think part of me is still enjoying The Magic of running that race exactly the way I’d pictured it.
Successful.
Feeling really pretty damn good at the end.
Feeling zero pain from either of The Knees or any of my 2,000 other parts.
Dancin’ with the ones that brung me: Pace and Intervals.
Feeling the triumph of the fruition All Those Miles put in training.
All that precautionary icing of the aforementioned knees.
The runs I cut short “just in case”.
The wisdom of listening to my body (finally got that little lesson).

I ran – successfully and enjoying (just about) every step of every mile – a freakin’ Half Marathon!
And I’m more excited about running the next one on December 2nd.
And.  I am really beginning to think I’m going to be able to run twice that far in December 2013.

I’ll be back in a day or two to provide the review of SnuggBuds Headsets that I was asked to write here on my blog!
Spoiler Alert: It will not be a bad review…

The cards might lie . . .

. . . but the numbers never do! (Thank you Mary Chapin Carpenter!)

Stated Goal Time for my first Half Marathon: 3:00:00

Official Finish Time for my first Half Marathon: 2:54:29

I finished a full 5:31 UNDER my Stated Goal Time.

I’m still a little shocked.
I’m also still putting my thoughts together about the whole thing.

I learned many things.

I learned that The Right Running Partner will find you in a field of 5,447.

I learned to trust what got you there – your training.

I learned that more experienced runners are more experienced runners for many reasons and listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do.
(Unless they advise you to eat paint chips or jump up and go out and run twenty miles all at once one day, but I never heard that from anyone anywhere ever so I stick with that “listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do” thing.)

I learned to hold to what got you there – pace and intervals.

I learned that a middle-aged, overweight, sedentary woman can decide – “out of nowhere – to “take up running” one year and finish a half marathon the next.

IF, and only if, she does all those things I listed up there.
And maybe believes in herself just the tiniest little bit along the way.

 

 

 

This is it!

 

 

2 Days – 10 Hours – 14 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.

It isn’t the first one I have set out to do.
That was back in March.
But apparently it was the first one I was intended to do.
And I am, finally, okay with that.

I have butterflies in my stomach.
They’ve gone from stomping around in combat boots in formation to running wind sprints.
I can live with wind sprints.

I have a cadre of Runner Friends who have given me support, encouragement, congratulations, and one consistent bit of advice: Have fun!

I have HCRP who is being his ever-tolerant, patient self with my newbie nerves and nattering on and on about which tech shirt I should take as a back-up if the race shirt is sleeveless (sleeveless t-shirts freak me out a little bit).

Several weeks ago one of the RFs commented on one of my (many, many, many) Facebook posts about this upcoming race that this race is my “victory lap”.  It’s the celebration of all the miles I’ve put in training.  And while I appreciated the sentiment it really didn’t make sense to me at the time.
I mean the Half was The Whole Point of all the miles and training and . . . and . . . and well all the miles and training!
Wasn’t it?
She was just trying to keep me from getting too worked up and possibly attempting to prevent the combat boot wearing, formation marching butterflies.
Right?
I just didn’t quite get what she meant.

Until Monday evening when I was doing the last Coaching Run with the Beginning Runners in the Women’s Running Training Program that was the start of this whole Running Thing for me.  I was running along with one of the other Coaches and three of the Beginning Runners (a mother and her two daughters which I think is just so cool!) and we (the other Coach and I) were answering questions and Out Of Nowhere it hit me: The Race really is The Celebration.  It is The Victory Lap!  The miles and the training really were The Point.

Now The Marching/Sprinting Butterflies are still around.
And every time I look at the picture of where the Finish Line is going to be I get choked up.

Wanna see?
How freakin’ cool is that?!
And I know I’m gonna bawl if not actually crossing the Finish Line, because really who wants their Ugly Cry Face as that picture, but a few steps thereafter.
And the crying won’t be (completely) because “I did it!” but also because “I did everything that made me able to did it!”

Earlier this week (also on Facebook) I posted a status to the effect that this Half was the single most significant accomplishment of my life.
I left out that it was more significant than graduating high school or college, more significant than marriage, more significant than even childbirth.  I left that out because I really didn’t feel like being judged for including the birth of my one-and-only “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” child.  (I tried for others before him, but that didn’t work out so well.)
 Aaaaanywho . . . this isn’t my Therapy Blog so back to The Running Stuff . . .

Crap.
Where was I?
Not The Point . . .
The Victory Lap . . .
Single most signific . . .  There I was!

Okay so this Half Marathon is the single most significant accomplishment of my life for one reason and one reason only: It is the one thing I’ve done that never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself capable of.
All those other milestones up there?  Please.  Those were givens.
knew I would graduate high school and college.
knew I would get married.  Hadn’t counted on married, divorced, married, divorced, married but hey I get HCRP out of that so I’m good.
knew I would have a baby.  I had planned on three or four, but the one I managed to bring successfully (if surgically assisted) into the world is a pretty good kid so I’ll keep him.  Besides I don’t think they take back almost twenty-four year olds.
Running a Half Marathon?  All in one day?  Yeah sooooo not on my radar like ever.
Until Saturday, October 11th when I heard the words “we” and “half marathon” falling out of my face all in one sentence.

So I really need to be getting to bed/sleep because we have to get up early tomorrow to get in our last pre-race quick, short run before going to work.

But before I go I have to point out the single most beautiful piece of synchronicity about this whole thing.
This time last year I was a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first 5K as A Runner on the third Saturday of September.
This time this year I am a little over two days from the Start Time for doing my first Half Marathon as anything on the third Saturday of September.
HOW freakin’ cool is that?!

2 Days – 9 Hours – 25 Minutes – Ever-Changing Seconds until the start of my first ever Half-Marathon.