Sunday, June 14, 2009

Zooma, and other related running stories.

After finishing the Mayor’s marathon last year, I had made a promise to myself to keep in shape and get a few lower mileage races under my belt before I began training for my next full marathon. However, one bum knee (yes, I hurt my knee during the last marathon and will be doing Physical Therapy in correlation with my training this time around to make sure I’m lean, mean and strong for San Francisco!) and minor surgery later, I took just a few months off from running (read: 6), gained a few pounds and became an all around “couch potato.” The laziness felt good (who needs the gym when you have stretchy pants?), but I knew I needed to get up and move around again so that I could rewire my thinking and actually enjoy exercising again. Not always an easy task. So, I went online to find some motivation and came across the Zooma Women’s Race ½ Marathon in Annapolis, Maryland. The beauty of Annapolis was not what sold me - I was really drawn in by what was in store for the runners AFTER they finished. Live music, wine, cupcakes, yummy food, mini spa treatments (acupuncture, yoga, foot massages, back massages) and a necklace for the finishers. I’m thinking women’s races are the way to go from here on out. I run for the pampering afterwards.

Needless to say, the “rewiring” I was hoping to accomplish after signing up didn’t exactly come. Sure, I started running more often, but not nearly enough to actually feel prepared for the race. I debated scaling it back to the 10K, but didn’t think that would be challenging enough, so I stuck to the original plan. Joining me for the race was my very good friend Donna and a really terrific woman, Nan, who joined us from my old running group,
The Capital Striders. I had no expectations for the race other then to finish. I said I’d be happy if they didn’t pull me off the track for being the slowest one out there.

One of the things I learned during my training last year is that it is important to train in every kind of weather because you never know what it is going to do on race day. So if it’s raining, get out there and run, if it’s snowing, get out there and run, if it’s sunny, get out there and run. I was very excited when I saw the predicted forecast for race weekend. It was supposed to be sunny and in the 70’s, perfect for a nice 13.1 mile jog. However, “supposed to” isn’t what is “actual.” The actual forecast was overcast, 50’s and raining - and of course all I brought was my thin dry-fit racing shirt and stretchy running pants, not exactly the warmest of running gear. We had shown up early to make sure to have time to put everything in bag check, get a warm-up run in and stretch before the gun went off. After we parked, we began walking up to the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium/ the starting line and I noticed a crowd of TNTers huddled together getting instruction. I had known that the Zooma 1/2 was a Team In Training event, but seeing the group of purple in person sent a pang of nostalgia my way, especially since this was the first organized race since my full marathon. As my eye scanned the group, I spotted one very familiar sparkly wig and crazy green foam crown on the top of a coach’s head. Could that be…? It was! Tina, my old head coach! I turned to Donna and Nan, and simply stated, “I have to go over there for a second,” and b-lined for Tina. As I silently made my way through the purple mass, another coach gave me a quizzical look since no one else knew who I was. Moments later Tina turned my way and screamed, “Lauren! Hi honey!” wrapping me in a tight hug. Tears welled up in my eyes, I was so glad to see her. I couldn’t have asked for a better surprise then to have her at my race. We chatted for a few minutes, but I didn’t want to take her attention for too long from her current TNTers and, of course, had my own girls to worry about!

When the race did actually start, I was grateful for the rain and cooler temperature. It allowed me to take my time and get acclimated to my stride, with out having to also fight heat and humidity. Donna was an excellent running partner. We kept pace together the whole time (except for mile 11 when she got her wind and became a jack rabbit, taking off with so much grace and power, I couldn’t even be upset with her for leaving me in the dust. I decided to catch up to her by mile 12 – not an easy task, let me tell you, but also great motivation for me to try and push myself past the comfortable pace I had been keeping thus far) and finished within seconds of each other. We of course then caught up with 10k runner, Nan, back at the Navy Stadium and took advantage of all the amazing things they had set up for us - which were made even more enjoyable since the sun had decided to join us back at mile 9.

Unfortunately, after that race my knees started to really ache and I began to worry that marathon training may really be a struggle for me this time around. I put the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevate) technique into practice and scheduled my first Physical Therapy session.

The weekend following the ½ was my Team In Training kick-off breakfast. My mom was visiting, and since she is a TNT alumni, I invited her to join me to meet some of my new teammates and coaches. As always, the team captains, coaches and personnel inspired a group of half awake marathoners, triathloners, and bike riders to get mentally prepared for the months to come. It was just what I needed to set my head straight and really start thinking about the training and the fund raising ahead of me (keep checking back for updates on upcoming Happy Hours and other events that I will be hosting this season!).

7 days pass, I haven’t run since the May 31st ½ marathon and I am standing down at the Georgetown Waterfront waiting to run in the Lawyer’s Have Heart 10k (or 6.2 miles). And, I am the most nervous I have ever been about a race since running track back in high school. I am not sure exactly where my fear came from (probably from not wanting to disgrace myself in front of coworkers and friends) – but I sat at the starting line with butterflies in my stomach, wanting to just walk off the course. The race left in two heats – the people who run below an 8 minute mile (not me) and those that are above an 8 minute mile (yeah, there I am). After the first heat left, I looked around at my wonderful friends – Ellen, her husband Brian, Emily, Melissa and her boyfriend Keith – and took a deep breath. I had (sort of) designed my team’s t-shirt for this race, so I felt obligated in a way to complete it. Okay, whining over, just run it.

When our gun sounded, I took off and keep pace with Ellen and Brian for the first mile or so. Despite the heat, I initially felt good, even on the inclines, and began to feel a little more settled with the run. However, after mile 1, I could feel my left knee start to pull a bit and I had to work to keep my breathing steady, so I decided to slow my pace down a tad and quickly lost sight of the E &B. Since it was only going to be a 6 miler, I decided against wearing my fuel belt for this race, and noted when they were going to have water stops for us. The course looped, so the first water stop was going to be at mile 2 and then the same tables on the way back for mile 4. I got to water stop #1, grabbed a cup and thought, “Hey, I’m already at mile 2 – I can totally complete this run!” and trotted along, confident. However, about a ½ mile or so later I came to another water stop and became completely disoriented. I can’t already be at mile 4, can I? I then hear someone yell, “2 miles down, guys! 2 miles down! Way to go!” What?!?!?! I am just NOW at the 2 mile marker? What the heck was that other thing then? And there, to confirm my fear, is the sign showing “2 miles” mockingly in red letters. My confidence fades, I feel the full weight of the sun on me and continue to feel like I need to work to get enough air into my lungs. All around, it was a hard race for me. I was very aware of my left knee the whole time, and multiple times I thought of quitting or going off to the side of the road to throw up (talk about disgracing myself in front of coworkers and friends…). I didn’t quit, I didn’t throw up and, despite how terrible I felt, finished in a very respectable time of 58:58 (a 9:30 minute mile pace! That is 41 seconds faster, per minute, then my ½ marathon pace!) Granted, I didn’t have the typical kick I usually have at the end of a race since I was so wiped, but we can’t have everything all the time, now can we?

Again, I had a lot of people who joined me in completing this race, so congratulations go out to: Team Dewey (Rebecca, Joe, Jonathan, Teresa, Gideon, Gideon, Kristen, Agnes, Asmara, Arturo, William and J. Porter), Warren, Ellen, Brian, Melissa, Keith, Emily, Hui Ling, Juan, Rex, and Sarah (TNT teammate!).

If these two races have taught me anything its that maybe, just maybe, you should actually train for the races you are going to run. I found a quote by
Greg Anderson, who has said it best, "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it." Since I truly did not enjoy my LHH journey, and relished in the completion, I know now just how important it will be for me to stick to TNTs training program so that I will be able to enjoy all those hills I’ll be going up during the Nike Marathon. Let’s just pray that San Francisco doesn’t have a freak heat wave in October.