Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just Because I Love Them So Much

New Balance has been putting out some running commercials the past few years that I have absolutely loved. I've laughed, I've cried, I've whole heartedly agreed and sympathized with the actors on the screen…

Here are just a few of my favorites. It’s good to know that what I am feeling when I have to go to bed early on Friday evening, or when I roll out of bed at 5:30 am on a Saturday, or when I am hurt/ sick (like this week – ugh) and can’t run is not isolated to just me.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

1) For the early morning runs

2) For every first mile (because I don't "like it" until about mile 5)

3) How I feel after pretty much every long run

4) When I'm physically unable to run (for either illness or injury)

5) And finally, the perfect summation

Thank you New Balance, I may not use your shoes, but I truly enjoy your commercials.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yep, I am the smelly girl.

Running really is a mental game. Most of the time, when I find that I have had a good run, it’s partly because my mind was distracted and not focused as much on where I was or what I was doing (e.g. running). Now, it’s not as if I’m not alert and paying attention to my surroundings, it’s more just relaxing into the motion of running and letting my mind workout my daily subconscious/ conscious worries. This has come in to play, big time, over the last few long runs that I have done. As my prior post detailed, 16 miles was absolutely no fun for me. I hate nearly every minute of it, and all my body wanted to do was stop moving and sit down somewhere. However, the last two long runs that I just completed were not nearly as bad - though I had to trick myself every so often in order for me to get through it/ not focus on running.

Part of this mental game for me is having people there while I run. Yes, this becomes crucial when I’m in need of outside support because my body/ mind is failing to do the job I want it to do (like the 16 miler) - but it’s also important when I’m not hurting. It’s more fun to step out with someone(s) by my side (I mean a party isn’t a party if it’s just you, is it?) and I typically stay out longer when there are people with me as well. So, I sometimes wish that running was more of a team sport, that you couldn't do it without having a buddy along. And since I have adapted to the TNT way of running (i.e. not listening to music while I run), it’s all on me to distract myself while I am out on the trail. I actually think I prefer it this way, I listen to my body way more without music and find a rhythm that has nothing to do with Whitney Houston’s vocals or Aerosmith’s guitar solos.

With this in mind, although 10 miles is now considered my “short weekend run,” I still did not want to do it on my own. I didn’t have any plans to leave the city on Labor Day weekend, and took the opportunity to look around and see who I could motivate to come running 10 miles with me, early on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning was the only logical time to go. Although I was not venturing out of the city (or, at least, very far out of the city) my weekend plans included an afternoon through evening wedding on Saturday, where I knew many celebratory glasses of wine were going to be drunk, Sunday I was headed up to Baltimore to see some friends, and Monday was going to consist of a little chore doing and massive amounts of laziness having (running would have just messed that up). So Saturday morning it was. I found that two of my Team In Training running mates, Laura and Wendy, were going to be in town, and instantly recruited them. Then I went online to see if my old running group, The DC Capital Striders, was holding anything that morning. Score! They had put together a run from DuPont Circle at 8:30 am (meaning I could sleep in a little bit AND use the metro to get there. No begging for a ride or rental car needed! Sa-weet), and although the posting listed them doing 12 miles, I knew they’d be able to reconfigure the course to suit our 10 mile needs. (Yes, I refuse to go “above and beyond” with the training - if it says 10, I am doing 10, not 10.1, just 10.) So, I signed us up and rested my head easy for the rest of the week.

Seeing as how I have recently moved, I was still at the point where the majority of my belongings were nestled in unlabelled boxes scattered throughout the house, leaving me minus one alarm clock (among many, many things). So, I branched out and used other technology to help lull me out of slumber every morning…my cell phone. It was actually much more effective then my alarm clock has been. Over the past few months I have grown accustom to the voices of
NPR Morning Edition hosts Steve Inskeep and RenĂ©e Montagne, to the point where 15 minutes may have past and my brain still hasn’t realized that I was supposed to get out of bed. I need the nudging of incessant beeping, directly next to my head to jar me out of my dreams. (It also helps that the snooze alarm is only 5 minutes long, instead of the 9 minutes my trusty old alarm clock used to give me…) So since I had been a rockstar all week - getting up on time, showing up to work early - I was a bit cocky when setting my alarm for Saturday morning. Although I had typed in the correct numbers 6:30, I failed to type in the correct time of day and let it rest on PM instead of converting it to AM. My body wakes me up around 7: 25 am, and I look around my bedroom confused - and confused as to why I am confused.

“Okay, it’s morning. That’s fine.”
“It’s light outside. Something about that feels wrong…”
“Didn’t I just wake up?…Why is my alarm not beeping then?…it’s 7:25!”

I jump out of bed, pick up my cell and start typing to my TNT running mates. “Running late - don’t leave without me!” Throw some running gear on my body, bread down my throat, and head out to catch the first metro train before having to transfer at Metro Center. By pure dumb luck, each train arrives right as I get to the platform, allowing me to get to the fountain at DuPont 15 minutes EARLY. Ah, looks like I could have actually had that bowl of oatmeal! Oh well. I cop a swat on the fountain, do some people watching, and read both reply text messages letting me know that they were actually running behind too. Slowly but surely, people start showing up and, in true gym class style, we all stand around in an oblong circle, with our hands on our hips, slightly swaying from side to side waiting for instruction.

“Okay guys, we are going to exit the circle over here, and run down P Street, making a right on 35th street, and then a left on Wisconsin Avenue. We’ll take that all the way up into Friendship Heights, and then cut over to come back down Connecticut Avenue and meet back at the circle. Everyone got that?” ...may have been the instructions that he said, but this is what I heard:

“Okay guys, we are going to exit the circle over here, and run down P Street, then I’m going to make you take a right up this steep hill, only to make you take a left up an even steeper hill and then force you run up that until you nearly pass out from exhaustion. Everyone got that?”

The next words out of my mouth were, “And where do we turn off for 10 miles?”

No one else seemed phased by this course. I think they all took the glass half full approach and thought that whatever we were running up the first half we would be running down the second, but, no, I did not look at it that way. I took it as, we are running up one major incline, and it’s going to suck. Half way through the hill I was so thankful that Laura and Wendy had decided to join me. All the other Striders were hundreds of feet ahead of us, and we were jogging along right next to one another. The leaders of our group would turn back around for us every so often, to make sure that we weren’t lost (which was very nice of them, but we were basically running a straight line. If we got lost, that would be pretty pathetic.) I kept thinking that this is all good practice for San Fran, and that however much this hurts now, it will hurt less in the race because I’m stronger from my training. The turn to come back down the hill on Connecticut was indeed nice - I was actually able to keep up conversation at this point in the run - and even dodging the early morning zoo goers was a good time. We got back to the circle and I immediately hailed a cab so that I could get back and get ready for the wedding.

Fast forward to the next weekend, the team is back running together, and we are completing 18 miles. It’s true, I have run 18 miles before, but that was over a year ago, and thinking on just how bad 16 miles went, I was nervous about the run all week. The coaches decided that we were going to do our mileage in Reston, VA on the
W&OD trail, which would take a touch longer to get to then Fletcher’s Boat House or the National Mall. The girl who was giving me a ride let me know she would pick me up at 10 after 6:00, so I got myself up at 5:30 to be ready for her arrival. 6:10 roles around, and I’m fully dressed, standing at the kitchen window, peering out looking for her car…6:15, okay, this is the first time she is getting here, maybe she got a little turned around…6:20, I do not have a good feeling about this. She hasn’t called me to tell me she was lost and she hasn’t shown up yet. I rushed upstairs, turned on my computer and check my e-mail for her cell phone number. First time I dialed it, it lead me to a, “The number you have dialed as been disconnected. Please hang up and check the number you are hoping to reach,” message. I freaked. Then realized I inverted the first two numbers. Whew. I dialed the correct number - no answer. I dialed it, immediately, again, a groggy “hello?” came on the other end. It’s now 6:28 am.

“Hey! It’s Lauren from TNT. I hope you didn’t just wake up. Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah, hey. I was just about to call you. I can’t go.”
“I’m…you…what, why?!” All I could think of was how I was NOT prepared to run 18 miles by myself. NOT prepared at all.
“Oh, trouble with Zipcar. I couldn’t and they couldn’t locate the car I rented, so I’m not going to worry about it. By the time we got another car, it would be too late anyway.” Oh. Dear. God. NO.

I had to get off the phone immediately. My brain whizzed with possible options to take, and staying on the line with my old ride was clearly not getting me any closer to the trail with my team.
“Okay, well, that sucks. Gotta go!”

I called the other girl who had offered me a ride earlier in the week, unfortunately, she was almost at the trail by the time I got a hold of her.

Next option, my running group - they had a run last weekend, and even if they aren’t planning on doing 18, I’ll at least have some people to run with for the first few miles. Typed in their web address, and…turns out that was the one Saturday they didn’t have a run (or rather, they had one - but no one was showing up to it. Not even the designated leader for that meetup. Sigh).

Next option, my friend Dave who runs ridiculously long runs all the time, for fun, and who gets up early - even on the weekends. I text him. No immediate response. Ugh.

Next option, I call my mentor, Kristy. She picks up on the second ring, “Hey Lauren! How are you?”

“On the brink of tears…” I run through my dilemma and glance at the clock, 6:34 am. She reassures me that she hasn’t even left, and is having trouble locating her Zipcar (geez Zipcar - get with it already!). I ask her if she thinks if I rent a Zipcar now, and drive out, whether I would still be okay? Sure, I’d get there late, but I wouldn’t (mentally) be on my own for the run (and I really needed that at that point). She thought that would be fine, and had even talked to someone who was already at the trail sight and said things were running slower that morning.

I got off the phone with her, located an available Zipcar (6 blocks away - grrrr), hastily wrote down directions to Reston, threw my bag on my back, and took off. A block away from my house and my bag completely breaks, but I don't slow down. I whip it to the front side of my body and continue running. I get to the street the Zipcar was supposed to be on, and see nothing. Not one of their orange signs denoting where the car was parked, not a car door with the Zipcar logo on it - nothing. I paced the street like an angry lion and analyzed every car (windshield for the sensor, car door, even license plate - nothing). I was in no mood for this, I had to get to a practice I was already late for - so I wasted no time and called Zipcar (bypassing Dave's response text message since I had already decided on the mad dash to Reston, VA). To be honest - I could have been nicer to the representative, but after already loosing one ride to a missing Zipcar, there was no way I was going to loose two. She was able to calmly and nicely let me know that the car is actually located in the alleyway behind the address they had given (a fact that was probably listed on the reservation but I over looked due to the quickness in which I wrote everything down. My bad Zipcar.) I got on the road and headed toward my old running spot, but a place I have never driven to. I hit the GW Parkway, and pushed the speed limit just a bit. Right as I thought I was making good time, a cop from the other direction, hops the median grass strip and does a U-turn to come back my direction. Crap - I can not be pulled over right now. Crap. Crap. Crap. Granted, I was going with the flow of traffic, however, the way my luck was going that morning, I would be the one that was singled out. I tapped the brake and slowed the speed down a good 8-10 mph. After about a mile, the copper drove past me and made a right into some park. My shoulders relaxed and, not learning my lesson, picked up the speed again, anxiously looking for my next turn off. By the time I made it to the trail, it was 7:40 am, and the only people left over in the parking lot/ meet up area were the coaches and other assorted TNT personnel. Kristy had informed them of the debacle that occurred earlier, so they were well prepared for my late arrival. I got instructions as to where the team headed, did a quick stretch, and let curiosity get the best of me.
"So, how long ago did they head out?"
"About 20 minutes ago, you won't be too far behind everyone."
I started my run, and thought - okay, 20 minutes, that's 2 miles for someone who runs at a 10 minute pace...I may actually be able to catch up with some of the slower folks. Sweet.

I was keeping a pretty decent pace, and my mind was rather distracted (a good thing) so I wasn't even thinking about or worrying about the miles I was completing that day. I was content that I had made it to the trail and I was running with my people. I pasted my favorite trail sign - Difficult Run - snickered and continued on. About mile 4 I started to see some familiar faces and running shirts (coming the other way, of course) - by mile 6 I found all of my running buddies (coming the other way, of course), who all hooted and hollered for my triumphant showing at practice that morning. guys :)

The morning of the 18 miler was also rather cold - probably around the 60 degree mark- a fact that I didn't take into account/ didn't notice since my body temperature had increased from stress and rushing around. I had removed my longer shirt when I got to the parking lot, and wished I had it with me about mile 10. The wind was a blowin', and I was a sweaty. Since I was in constant motion, it didn't really bother me until I slowed down or stopped altogether. I wasn't stopping for muscle or joint pain though, I only slowed/ stopped at the water stops or for a restroom break. The "breaks" were a tad more frequent during this run since my body decided that the early morning stress was also going to throw my stomach out of sorts, but I was slightly grateful for it since it helped add to my distraction. "An upset stomach helped you?" you may be thinking. Yes, it absolutely did. I was so focused on finding out where the next Port-O-John was, and running more quickly to locate it, that I wasn't even phased by what mile I was on or how much farther I had until the end. I had a more pressing, shorter distance to worry about. Sure, that slowed me down, and, ultimately, I was definitely one of the last ones to roll back into the meeting area - but I could have cared less.

The miles continued. Every so often I would see someone I knew coming the other way, and every so often I was able to pass someone on the trail, and before I knew it - "TNT - FINISHED" appeared before me, written in pink and yellow sidewalk chalk. Really? That was 18 miles? Wait, really? Oh, okay.

I started to walk over to my team, but quickly switched back to running. I didn't really like going slow. I got back to the tents and tables, downed a bagel with peanut butter and chatted with the remaining folks about how everyone else's run went. I couldn't believe how good I felt. I could have continued running, I felt that good. I drove myself back - getting completely lost since I didn't write down return directions... - stretched and went on with my day. My roommate did come up to me when I got home, and she - without thinking about it - gave me a hug, "Congrats! You're done your 18 miler! Oh (nose scrunched up) you stink."

Yes. Thank you. I know.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Well, If He Can Do 43, I Can Do 1

This article caught my eye as I was on the metro headed to work today. There was just a small blurb in the Washington Post Express, right below two articles titled the "U.N. Condemns Gaza War Crimes" and “Somali Militants Vow to Avenge Assault by U.S.” - I think I am missing the correlation the editors saw when laying out this page... - but enough was there to wet my appetite.

Apparently “funny man”
Eddie Izzard (yes, those quotation marks are on purpose) ended his 1,100-mile trek across Britain in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday, September 15, 2009. The equivalent of 43 marathons - an amazing feat - all for a U.K. charity called Sport Relief. This just confirms my theory that all comedians must be a little off in the head. 43? I thought one was bad enough!

My favorite part of the whole story was that he finished it running next to an ice cream truck that was playing the theme song to “Chariots of Fire.”

For more on the story:
Izzard: I've run the UK, now will run for office

(If you don’t have a Washington Post account, the article is probably up for free somewhere on the internet)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Countdown: 45 Days Left

DC’s summers are known for their heat, humidity and pasty Washingtonians. Although tourists from far and wide flock to the town to see the sights, many immediately regret their sight seeing plans when they realize there is only minimal shade (and bathrooms) to be had on the National Mall. This summer, however, has been fairly mild. It does keep me from running during lunch, but I have not had to take extreme measures to ensure that my hair does not rise 3 feet higher then it normally would, and walking around the city for extended periods of time does not have me clambering for my water bottle every few steps. So, all in all, a really wonderful summer - until…UGH-gust. We were really making up for the mildness, which is particularly nice when I have the pleasure of sweating through work clothes that are built for cooler temperatures (read: my office is like a Frigidaire) when stepping outside. (Truthfully, the heat isn’t all bad. The first 15-30 transitional seconds, when I go from inside to outside, are the best. I can feel my limbs thaw out, like the sun is wrapping me in a nice hug. After those 15-30 seconds though, the hug begins to intensify until I am almost in a vice-like grip of heat. Just darling.)

I had heard that the 14-miler my team completed was done on a day the heat hit early (about 90 degrees at 7:00 a.m.), and my attempted 14-miler was in conditions that were no better (hence, attempted…), so when I got out of bed this past Saturday, and stepped outside at 6:20 a.m. into air so thick I nearly choked, I was a little worried. My 10 miler had gone really well the previous weekend, and the 6-miler I did with the Striders that following Monday was also pretty strong - so I thought my knee could handle the mileage, I just wasn’t sure the rest of my body was going to fair so well. My ride shows up, we get to trail and join the rest of the team for some instruction and some inspiration before we started off. The coaches laid out our path for that day, which luckily did not include Haines Point. I am not sure what it is about that place, but I feel like it is the Bermuda Triangle for my energy. All three times I have run out there, I have had really poor runs. I’m trying to get out of the mindset that “Haines Point = exhaustion” and reassure myself that these were all just fluke coincidences, but I’m losing that mental battle at the moment.

Our (sans Haines Point) running trail had us starting out at Fletcher’s Boat House and heading left towards Maryland until mile marker 5.5, then looping around to head back past the boat house, down into Georgetown’s Waterfront, then up into Rock Creek Parkway turning around right before that very scary, very steep hill at the junction of Calvert Street and Rock Creek Parkway, ending back at Fletcher’s Boat House. Initially, I was afraid the coaches had planned for us to go UP that very steep hill heading into Woodley Park (wouldn’t put it past them - sadists), and ran with a pit of dread swimming in my stomach when I knew that point was getting close. As soon as I saw other TNTers turn at the lower stop sign, I could have jumped for joy, but I decided to save my energy for the 6 miles still left to do.

As predicted, my knee dealt well with the mileage, and the rest of my body felt pretty good throughout the 16 miles (I allowed myself to stop and stretch a few times - reasoning that if I pulled something, I’d have to sit out – in pain - and who wants that?), but I really struggled mentally with this run. The whole time I was out there, and even before we started, I couldn’t wait to finish. The portion of my brain that I deem the “whiney two year old” section was dominating my thoughts and threw quite the temper tantrum.
I tried to force some positive thinking, but
“This is stupid.”
“I hate this.”
“Why am I running another marathon?”

kept crawling back in. I am pretty sure it had something to do with the amount of stress I was under that week and the extra humidity that my body was dealing with that morning, but thinking about finishing was the ONLY thing that truly kept me going. Really pathetically obvious thoughts kept my legs moving, the biggest being: “Once you’re finished, you can stop running for today.” In close second was, “Once you’re finished, you can go take a nap.” And finally, “If you walk, you’ll be out here longer.” It reiterated to me just how important it is to have team support on these longer runs. Even if all it is, is passing someone going the other way on the trail in a Team In Training shirt, and nodding in recognition that we are out there together. It’s a pretty powerful thing, particularly when your thoughts have turned against you.

Although I had taken the time to stretch out on the trail, I was undeniably tight after finishing. My Quads especially. The soreness was punctuated when I walked down the small hill to get back into the parking lot/ meet-up area to rejoin the rest of my teammates. It took me a little extra time to walk those 10 feet, complete with occasional scrunched up facial movements and arms airplaned out to the side for balance. My muscles were not happy that I was asking them to do anything else, so I rewarded/ placated them with a solid 8 minutes of stretching. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Much better. It really is the little things in life.

In total, I was out there just under 3 hours (we hit the trail at 7:15 am, and I got back at 10:05:56 am) that day, which - if you factor in two stretching breaks and one bathroom stop - means I kept a sub 10-minute mile pace (ultimately what I am shooting for during the race). Yeah, that’s right - I rock.

This weekend will be 10 miles with out my team again (since it’s a long holiday weekend, and they figure that most people will be going out of town), so I have decided to buddy up with my old running group again (the Capital Striders) and am dragging along two of my TNT teammates. Bonuses to this weekend are that I get to sleep in to at least 6:30 a.m. (woo hoo!) and the weather has taken a dive this week so I’ll get to run in 70 degree weather! Come on sweater weather/ football games/ candy corn/ running through dried leaves and hearing them crackle at your feet…I love Fall.

I have more awesome people to thank for their generous donations over the past few days. Your donations have brought me to the 60% mark!

- Rick: Buddy. I have no idea how I forgot you last round. For this, I will thank you twice. THANK YOU for your donation. Just think, if it wasn’t for your running group, I would have never gotten back into running. My marathon really started the first day I showed up and meet with you all.

- Mike: Thank you so much for going out of your way to donate to my cause!

- Cecilia: Miss working with you. Let me know when you finally get started again and aren’t just eating dirt and twigs anymore ~ you can count on my support!

- Jeff: Thank you for not only donating, but taking the time to pass along my information to others. The more people that I can reach – even if it’s through other people – the better chance LLS will have to fund their research and give back to families that are personally touched by these diseases.

- Jaelithe: I will always refer to you as my roommate. I’m glad to hear that everything is working out for you in Florida, but…move back up here. I miss you. Thank you for your donation (I hope you can make it to Cali with me!!!)

- Will: Has the move to DC become complete? If so, I believe a drink at a non-discotheque hookah bar is in order. *wink

- Alice: Can’t wait to see you this weekend. Thank you so much for putting some of your hard earned money towards my fundraising goal!

- Hui Ling: It was so great running into you (literally) twice last week! I am going to try and stay on my Strider kick – so hopefully I will be seeing you out on the trail soon.

- Rick: Alright, my second thank you is comin’ at ya – THANK YOU!!!