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!

Pick Your Own Title

I started writing this late Saturday night after we got home from the 5K we ran.

Blame Tonia
Or
Why Run? / Why Running?
Or
Julianne, you think too much
Or (my personal favorite)
What’s Run Got To Do With It?

I mostly like that last one because this happens to be one of my absolute, all-time favorite songs ever.
But.
I digress. (Don’t play like that, you were warned long ago.)

Tonight I ran in my first 5K Race since December before The Decline and Fall of Ye Olde Knee which has seen me sitting out two 5Ks and one Half-Marathon. My personal performance and results of tonight’s race are (for purposes of this post) inconsequential; however, I promise a complete synopsis – and pictures – at a later date.

I also owe (really, seriously, I quite happily Owe this one) an entry as a result of having been nominated for an Inspiring Blog Award. I’m still fully digesting that one, as well as coming up with the requisite “seven personal revelations about myself that would not ordinarily appear on my blog” that actually gives me a fair amount of leeway given that I pretty much stay focued on my (arguably questionable and possibly insane) thoughts on and during runs. I mean there’s that Obscure Food Allergy, The Near Phobia, and Food Hoarding thing.
Again with the digressing.
There really is no stopping me.

Wait, why am I writing again?
Scrolls up . . .
Inspiring Blog . . .
First 5K in six months . . .
Tina Turner’s hit machine Private Dancer album . . . (I don’t link to everything – do your own Googling!)
Oh!
I remember.

So tonight after the 5K HCRP and I get home and he proceeds to ice his knotted up calf muscle (again, another post for another time), following the icing with a soak in the tub with epsom salts to ease the pain and tightness. As he was finishing, I decided a soak wouldn’t hurt me and so I settled into my own soak and started reading my latest Kindle Borrow: Amby Burfoot‘s “The Runner’s Guide to The Meaning of Life” (I generally link to Amazon.com for books, but in this case you can get an autographed copy direct from the author and I would much rather promote that option.) This book was recommended to me by a dear friend and fellow runner who also happens to be one of my personal Running Mentors, the above-mentioned “Tonia” you can blame for this post.

As I was reading I came across the following: “Runners don’t quit. We fade, we ‘hit the wall’, we’re sometimes reduced to a walk. But we keep on.” and I was stopped in my reading tracks.
Since I took up, and got hooked on, running right about ten months ago I have been asked no small number of variations of the question “Why running?”. I started to follow that with several “Or” alternative takes on the stated question; but really they all come down to the same thing – whether the question had to do with my choice of this particular sport, my choosing a sport at all given that I have never been especially athletically inclined, my decision to embrace athleticism at this particular age (I was 46 when I started – I’m 47 now because really, that is so very much older and wiser), or whatever the mechanics of the question – it always comes down to “Why running?!” And until tonight my answer depended on how out of the blue the inquiry happened to have hit me.

The truth is there were several reasons I began the running training program I did a little over a year ago that started this whole little odyssey.

I wanted to learn to enjoy running.
Because my husband did.
Because I always envied runners I would see out there looking all zen and In The Zone.
But mostly because when I saw What Women Want and it got to the faux Nike ad I bawled like I did when ET died PLUS during the part after Shelby’s funeral in Steel Magnolias PLUS when Johnny Castle rescued Baby from The Corner all rolled into one.  Yeah, it was THAT kind of cry!

It was something I had done (by force) and failed miserably at (in gym class) and was (as we Southerners are wont to say) deadset and bygod determined to finally do and do well. Or at least do right. At least once.

And why lie
I wanted to lose weight
Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was seeking The Happy Side Effect. I think the consequence of that is that coming slower than I’d have liked and honestly becoming less and less The Point all the time. The Numbers I’m chasing now are on timing clocks more often than my bathroom scale.

But it was mostly that What Women Want faux Nike ad thing. At first.

Tonight when I read the quote from Amby Burfoot it suddenly came to me that running is the only sport that could ever have been a fit for me. Because I may hit walls, I may slow to a walk, but I never quit. And that’s what I love most about running. And why I love The Road.

Sometimes it’s just about going the distance

I’ll save bandwidth for the nice people here at WordPress and simply give you a link if you’re interested in seeing the map/elevation/splits for tonight’s run.
The Stats:
Distance: 6.01 miles
Duration: 1h:16m:27s
Avg. Speed: 12:43 min/mile
Calories: 896 kcal (Again – ROBBED.  It’s the heat and the humidity people!)

As I run along I have this monologue that plays in my head.  I thought I would try to recapture some of it and share with you here.  You’ll thank me.

On Playlist Choices:
If you have adult life experience memories from the year a particular artist was born, you probably have no business using their music to set your running pace.
On the other hand, if you have high school sweetheart memories associated with a particular artist, their stuff is probably exactly what you need to be running to.
There’s no walking when Boom Boom Pow comes up on your playlist. The BEPs don’t play that.  (I call them “The BEPs” because we’re tight like that me and them.)
I don’t care how much you love any song off of David Bowie’s 1983 hit machine album Let’s Dance accidentally having them duplicated on your playlist makes them annoying.

On Running/Biking Trail Etiquette:
Dear Cyclists,
Two phrases: “On your left!” or “Behind you!” Pick one.  Familiarize yourself with it.  Practice it while you’re putting on those funky, colorful bodysuits, and USE THEM WHEN COMING UP BEHIND A RUNNER!!
Sincerely,
Pricing Tiny Little Stop-Sticks in Memphis

Dear Fellow Trail Users:
If you are fit enough to carry the Gu Packet in with you, open it up and suck out its contents, I’m pretty sure you have the strength to carry the empty packet out.
Sincerely,
You are an embarrassment to us all.

Dear People Who Live Along the Trail:
Do you have to fire up your grills and make food smells while people are running?!
Have you no decency?  No compassion?
Sincerely,
You’re just mean

On The Run Itself:
Is that a twinge?   No.  No, that’s just tightness.  Tightness is okay.  I can work through tightness.

WTW?!  Where did that cyclist come from?!  Dude!  Bell.  Get one!

Feelin’ pretty good now.  Wait.  Slow down!  You will pay for this if you don’t!

Later That Same Run: I told you to slow down back there!

Gotta get-get, gotta get-get
Gotta get-get, gotta g-g-g-get-get-get, get-get
That’s right!  I’m running with The BEPs!  It’s me and Fergie and Will-I-Am and . . .  Yeah me and them!  Let’s get that Boom Boom Pow!

I need to walk for a minute.  No.  Wait. I can totally pass those walkers up there first.  Okay, cool.
Passing the walkers…  Gotta look cool and Runnery and strong.
Keep it going, here we go . . . Have they no manners?!  Don’t they know The Rule: Slower movers to the right?  Yo!  Two abreast at most not six!  *sighs*
Okay got around them.  I need to walk a min . . .  No.  No.  I’m not going to pass walkers and then start walking.  Just keep running.
Got it.

How many times has the smiling-a-little-too-much dude on the bike turned around and passed and re-passed me?  This is suspicious.  What if he’s a serial killer?  HCRP is miles ahead of me and won’t know anything has happened until he gets back to the car and I’m not there.  Crap.  I could call him.  No, wait, that’s stupid.  Back-and-Forth Guy is probably lost and can’t remember which end of the Greenline he started at.  Yeah, that’s it.  There he is again.  Hmmm…  Okay here’s The Plan: IF Back-and-Forth Guy turns out to be a serial killer and forces me off the trail I’ll drop my sweat towel HCRP will totally see that and know something is amiss.  I can keep my Endomondo program running on my phone until we stop then quick end the program and it will upload and they’ll know exactly where I am.  See?  This is why I never miss an episode of Criminal Minds.  I would totally make a great FBI Profiler.

Who moved the mile markers?!  I would have sworn that 2.5 miles was just past this overpass.  It was here the last time I ran this far.  Maybe that’s why Back-and-Forth Guy keeps doing his back and forth thing.  He’s moving the dang mile markers!  Jerk!

There it is.  There’s the twinge.  Time to walk.  Dammit!
Great, I said a cuss.  I can’t blog a cuss.  If my mother is secretly reading my blog she’ll be so mad at me.
Okay.  We’re walking, we’re walking. We’re stopping to stretch.
Remember Julianne, it isn’t about the time it’s about finishing the distance.
Right?
Right.

Ya’ know what?  I am totally gonna be able to do this half-marathon in September!
And that 10K next month.  No matter how hot it is.  Or how many hills there are.
Wait.  Terri Lee says Mutherhill and Jr. Mutherhill are on that course.  Crap.  I’m gonna die.  The Mutherhills are gonna kill me.
Okay if I keep adding a mile every week between now and then by June 23rd I’ll be up to . . Wait what’s today?  The 19th?  The 20th?  Where’s a calendar when I need one?  When did figuring dates become like math?

Okay, I need to walk now.  No.  Wait.  Dangit!  There’s that wad of teenagers I am totally not going to be walking when I get to them.  I was running when I passed them going one way, I will not be the ‘old fat lady’ who had to stop running and walk.  Run past them.  Correction: Run around them since they clearly didn’t get the “Don’t Walk Six Abreast With Three Dogs” Memo!  *GAH*  Kids!
Okay, got around them.  Run a little further.  Good.  Good.  It’s cool to walk now. 

There’s the 0.0 mile marker we are Home Free now baybee! Just hush and keep running.  Finish.  Running.  Always finish running.

And so it goes inside my brain while I run.
It’s no wonder HCRP decided to reduce his time and run ahead of me.  He’s been treated to all of this leaking down through my sinuses from my brain into my mouth and out past my lips more than a few times.
Don’tcha wanna run with me?!

The truth is I went into this run filled with more than a little nervousness since the last time I ran six miles was The Last Time I Ran for two months.
I kept telling myself that it’s different this time.
I have fully rehabbed my injury (Runner’s Knee if this is your first time stumbling across me).
I have trained gradually and am pacing myself.
I’m not running for the first time in brand new, different brand/type shoes.
I even have on new, better socks!
And at The End of The Run it wasn’t The End of Me Running and I did six miles that I finished running rather than limping or sitting at a corner waiting for HCRP to come back with the car to pick me up.
Yes, there was a mile in there that I walked almost all of (mile 5 at a nearly 16:00 minute/mile pace).  And as much as I had wanted to come in at about four minutes less than I did, I kept telling myself that (for now) it isn’t about time – it’s about ever increasing distance and finishing running, vertical, and wanting to do it again!
And I did all of those things.
I really needed this!