Sunday, September 23, 2012

One is the Loneliest Number... or is it?

So, here's how I work: I get fixated on stuff. Like, right now, I'm obsessed with finding me a running partner. This came about because I am training for a marathon and the thought of doing 16-20 mile runs by myself kinda freaks me out. On a boredom level, not because I don't like being by myself. In fact, that's one of the reasons I run; to be by myself. To escape from life for 30-90 minutes a few times a week.

With that said, I still want a running partner. I feel like I need one. But finding one has not been as easy as I thought it would be. Granted, I haven't put as much effort into it as I can. I have gone to a local running group a couple of times, but I never talked to anybody and always felt out of my element and uncomfortable. I have asked friends if they have any running friends that are training for the upcoming marathon and want a partner. No dice there.

I guess I can't really say that it's been hard to find a partner; what with me not putting too much into it. What is hard about it for me is the social part of it. I have never been good at making friends. I am socially awkward (although I know it's not PC to say this, but I am socially retarded). I don't really know how to talk to people at first. So, this kinda scares the shit out of me. Showing up at a group-run where I know nobody and the only thing I immediately have in common with any of them is that I run. Knowing that many of the runners there are of the fast variety, or veterans of the sport. And, isn't it weird that after all these years of running I still feel that runners are snobs? They aren't; I know they aren't (okay, some of them are... but some people are snobs in general), yet I still feel like I don't "belong". Why? I don't know. I mean, wtf... I run, therefore I belong, right? Not to toot my own horn, but I ran 16 f'ing miles at once... I should not feel out of place around other runners. Yet I do. Such is life, I suppose.

This is not something you can just Craigslist, you know? You can't just hop on a site and type in "running partner" and hope to find "the one". If only it were so easy. While I am VERY new to the dating scene, it seems that finding a running partner is very much like finding somebody worth dating. You can't just find somebody who has a similar pace as you, somebody who is ready to get out there and do 20-mile runs. There has to be the chemistry, too. You have to be able to stomach the person for up to 4 hours. There has to be trust on a few different levels. I think the only difference between finding a suitable running partner and dating is that the physical attraction doesn't have to be there for a running partner. It's actually probably better if there isn't the attraction. I don't know...

So, tonight I went on this run with a group called the Eugene Hash House Harriers. It was a damn lot of fun. I plan on going to it more and I know that once I get into it, I will most likely write a post about it. The group seems like a good place to find a training partner, maybe. I actually talked to people in the group (What?? Me, talk to people??) and there were several that are long-distance runners. Like, ultra-runners. One of the men I talked to qualified for Boston.!! He's probably out as a training partner because his pace would be wicked fast. Who knows, though. The fact is, I'm getting out there. I might be able to find somebody who wants to put in some serious miles with me. Maybe share some laughs and some stories. This group could be what I've needed for awhile with my running. I'm not getting bored or anything, but knowing other runners is always a great way to keep that motivation bar high.

I have high hopes for finding somebody to train with me. I still have several months before the marathon, which means I could very easily slack on the miles. But, I have already done a 16-mile training run and I'm very ready to bump it up. I hope to be doing 20 within the next month. Maybe by that time, I will have found somebody just crazy enough to join me! If not, I think I can probably survive doing the runs by myself. I am pretty content to just cruise along listening to my music and spend some time thinking... or not thinking.

We shall see how it goes!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Something Stellar Happened... (and keeps happening!)

So, last time I wrote I said that you'd hear from me in March or April, unless something stellar happened. Well, it is now September. I didn't post in March or April and something stellar did happen. Actually, a lot has happened since my last post; much of it not running related at all, but running kept me sane (mostly sane).

This stellar event was the Eugene Marathon. Okay, okay... not the full. I had registered to do the full, but stupid crap happened. Minor injury that led to me not being able to train for two weeks. This, of course, came at the worst possible time in my training; I had just bumped up to 14-mile long runs. The following weekend would have been 16 and then 18. Yeah, stupid body said F' that! So, into the doctor I went, had a minor stress fracture. Doc said no running for two weeks and then gradually work my way back up. Full marathon was out. But, given the shit storm my life had turned into, it was probably for the best.

I decided to end my eleven and a half year relationship with the father of my son. Awesome timing, for sure. What a big stinky mess all of that turned into. So not gonna go into it here. But... running saved me. Those horribly emotional days when I was alone at home... I would just hit the paths. Didn't matter what the weather. In fact, the more violent the weather, the more likely I was to be out there pounding the pavement; with rain and tears pouring down my face. Hail, wind, rain, thunder and lightning a couple times... didn't matter, I was out there.

There was one day in particular I remember: the wind was wicked, knocking over trash cans and tearing branches out of trees, the rain was coming in sideways. I could not wait to get changed into my running clothes after work and push myself as hard as I could. I don't remember the distance, but I remember that it was difficult. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. I ran as fast as I could. I bawled while doing it. The tempest that was the weather that day fully reflected my emotions. It. Was. Perfect.

So, training for the half-marathon was a bit of actual training (speedwork on the track, tempos, hill work, etc...) mixed with crazy, willy-nilly whatever the F kind of run I felt like doing. I discovered coconut water, Greek yogurt and the awesomeness that is almonds during my training. I found out that a whole-wheat tortilla slathered with peanut butter and rolled up around a whole banana (peeled, of course), paired with a glass of milk, is the perfect post-run meal. I purchased the sexiest piece of running equipment I own; my Garmin Forerunner 405CX (having that thing on my wrist made me run further just to see the numbers go up, faster just to see my pace get better... God, I love that thing!!)! All-in-all, aside from my life being a mess, my training was great! I enjoyed it.

April 29, 2012. Race day was perfect. The weather was exactly what one would want for a long run; no rain, cool and overcast. Didn't need a jacket or anything at the start, so there was no need to discard clothing on the run. I got off the shuttle with maybe 15 minutes to go before the gun (the pick-up for the shuttle was conveniently located a mile away from my house, so I got a great warm-up in on the way to it). And... naturally, I had to use a Porta-Potty right after I got off the bus. Didn't matter that I had made sure to go about 14 times before I left the house. Staying hydrated has its costs. Needless to say, the line was roughly a mile long. There is nothing like standing in a line that long, surrounded by other runners that have to pee just as badly as you do, and hearing the sound of those Porta-Potty doors slamming. There were so many of them that the line was moving pretty quickly and a door would slam every 5 seconds or so. Nice little rhythm to it. There were, of course, those runners who have no shame and could not wait to use the bathrooms; instead, they used the bushes. I saw several butts that day.

The gun went off while I was standing in line for the toilet. Of course. I was already nervous about the run because it was my biggest to date. Why wouldn't I be standing in line when it started? So, while I was supposed to be in Corral B, I didn't enter the race until Corral D was streaming through. I crossed the start line 6 minutes after the gun went off. I wasn't too concerned about it because the race is chip-timed (LOVE chip-timed!!) and my official time would not start until I crossed. Because I knew that, I was able to keep my pace slow for the start. That is my biggest problem; I take off at the start of races. With a 5K, I can usually survive if I take off too fast. A half-marathon... not so much.

Everything was going great. Until about mile 4. I had to pee... again! You runners know how it is; you can go out for a long run one day and not have to go once, and then your next run it's like you have to go every two miles. No fun. So, I had already passed the Porta-Potties and I wasn't sure how far it was before I got to the next row of them. But, I do have shame, so I wasn't about to cop a squat on the side of the road (besides, running down Amazon and Hilyard in Eugene, kinda not anywhere to go where I wouldn't have been spotted). Turns out, the next row of toilets was at mile 7. During the middle of a race you find out just how fast you can get in and out of one of those things. Yeah... it was about 7 seconds.

Yep, I just wrote a whole paragraph about needing to pee. But, us runners get it. Just like we get snot rockets, spitting during a run, losing toenails, the beauty that is chafing and the occasional need to pop an Immodium before a run. We are a sexy group, for sure :D  Anyway, I digress.

Next up: the hill at mile 8. Maybe it's not that great of a hill, but it's something. I knew about it. I trained on it. I was looking forward to it. And I ripped right the fuck up it. I was weaving in and out of other runners like we were on flat ground. It felt great. My pace was dead-on; I wasn't pushing myself too hard but there was a bit of a challenge to it. I crested that hill feeling incredibly accomplished and then flew down the other side. I flew down with surprising grace; I usually flail about somewhat spastic on the downhills.

The rest of the race was pretty unremarkable. I know that I never felt super-tired. I remember that during the last 3 miles I REALLY picked up the pace. Of course, I can't remember how many seconds per mile I shaved, but I know I picked it up a lot. I also remember skipping ahead to certain songs on my MP3 player to make sure that my pace was where I wanted it and I had the motivation to keep me going (Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger"?... yes, please!!).

As I approached Hayward Field, I got so freakin' excited! I mean, how damn cool is it to be running on the same track that so many running legends have ran on?? Hitting that track was like getting a turbo-boost. It's hard to not take off at a sprint for those last few meters when there are spectators in the stands. So, I bolted. Seeing the finishing clock was a little disappointing. My goal was 2:04:00 and that's pretty much right where I was. That was my GOAL, but I had done a solo half and finished in 2:02:00, so I was actually hoping to get less than that. I was secretly hoping to finish in 2 hours or less. Oh well, next time, right?

So, I crossed the finish line and went into the finisher area. I was sporting my finisher medal around my neck, chugging some chocolate milk, doing some stretches, and trying like hell to text my mom. I was ready to take a couple pictures, get in the car and head home. Did it work out that way? Nope! I found my mom, son and stepdad after much looking around. She was grumpy and not really into taking any pictures. I wanted to get my final results before heading out, but the computers were down... naturally. So, we left on our trek to find the car. Boy, do I mean find... they had forgotten where they parked. I believe we walked for 20 minutes to find that damn thing. I had just finished a 13.1 mile run, walking 20 more minutes was beyond painful. It did not help that a few blocks from Hayward the CRAMPS hit. The stomach cramps. The painful, almost make you double-over in pain cramps. Finding the car became of the utmost importance!!! It happened, but it was after much bickering about if that house looked familiar, or that bush, or that car. It was an awful walk!

A short drive got my son and myself to our apartment. I carried him and all of our stuff just so we could get to the apartment faster. I HAD to get there! So, we got in our place, did what had to be done and then booted up the computer so I could upload to DailyMile and Facebook. The Eugene Marathon (and I am sure many others) has this cool thing that updates to Facebook so your friends can see where you are, what your pace is and all that. Well... imagine my surprise when I saw my finishing time on there: 1:58:38!!! I totally forgot about chip time!! I literally cried when I saw my time. I could not believe it!! I finished better than I had hoped. I PR'ed by 17 minutes and 36 seconds!!! That is HUGE!! I have had great runs before, but I was so elated when I saw that time. It was such an amazing accomplishment for me. :D

I wasn't pleased with myself at all. Nope, not even a little bit!
So, I did that. I kicked the crap out of my personal record for the half-marathon. What next?? Well, shorter races, of course. There are 5Ks, 10Ks, that weird-ass 8K... So many different races that I could PR. I decided to go for the "Butte to Butte"; the annual 10K that is held on the Fourth of July. I had never done it before, but I had done some training on the bitch of a hill that it starts out on. The first mile is all uphill. A gnarly hill, too. Which makes the second mile all downhill, and as I stated before, I tend to hit the downhills a little spastic; like, I always feel like I am going to faceplant.

That first mile was a 9-something minute pace. Not horrible for being uphill. I went pretty slow at first, but I felt I could give it some more and I started passing people. That was not an easy mile!! The second mile (all downhill, mind you) was a 7:21 pace. I don't know how I didn't eat it! When my Garmin beeped my second split, I couldn't believe I ran a mile that fast; even a downhill mile.

Pretty uneventful run. Except towards the end; this guy just fell, rolled a little, stood up and kept going. Not sure what that was about. I was all ready to help him, but he got up like nothing happened. Anyway... I finished the race in 51:20, an 8:16 pace. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. Definitely my best 10K ever.

I have had some pretty decent solo PRs, too. Getting my pace down to sub-8s, while pushing a stroller. I will admit... I have impressed myself a few times. The fastest I did was a 7:31 mile, pushing my boy. He was yelling, "You can do it, Mommy!!" I don't think he even knew what I was trying to do (hell, I don't know what I was trying to do...), but he knew that I was after something. That one was near vomit-inducing, I tell ya.

Just my average pace alone has become something that occasionally  trips me out. Since I quit smoking, I have gone from an average 10:30 pace to an 8:00-8:30. Duh, quitting smoking is going to help with speed (and endurance and basically any part of running you can think of), but I had no idea that I would get THAT much faster! I am pretty sure that if I were to seriously train, I could actually have some speedy races under my belt. But, I am kind of lazy and tend to go for "junk" miles. I am happy with the running I put in and what I get out of it, no need to get all wacko about it.

I did Relay for Life. I am not a walker, so I ran it. I ran 14 miles around a track. Not all at once. I did 4 miles the first night, came back, did 5 miles, took a break and then did another 5 miles. Around a track. AROUND A TRACK! Boring. But, I will probably do it again next year. I will most likely do even more miles. I am thinking maybe a marathon. Just to be a little crazy and to say I did it.

On to my next big thing... the 8K here in Creswell. It has been a couple years since I have done it, so I thought I would give it a go. The start of it is less than a mile from where I live; giving me absolutely no reason to not do it. Besides, it's fun. It's little and local, always a nice combo. I rocked the shit out of it!! For me, anyway. I didn't quite hit my goal, but I wasn't so far off that I was upset or anything. I finished in 40:09, with a pace of 8:05. I was hoping for a pace of 8:00. I was close enough. The times were being posted almost as fast as they were coming in (which really surprised me for a Creswell run) and when I looked to see my official time, I saw something that I couldn't believe. Something that made me stay for the award ceremony, which I typically don't stick around for. I placed!!! In two categories!! I got 1st in my age division and 3rd overall female!! Yeah, it's a small race, but I am going to go ahead and take those victories!! What's really great is that there were more than 3 women, and more than 1 in my age division. The only times I have ever placed before it is because I have been 2 out of 2 in the division. I think I even placed 1st one time, and that was because I was the only one. Anyway... Yeah, I got ribbons!!! I was super-stoked. I still am, actually. I want more ribbons! I want more places. I need to do small-town races more often!

RIBBONS!!! And I earned em!! (Yes, this pic looks very much like the one from my half-marathon... I have certain race outfits, based on color of shoes)

Okay, what else do I have to go on about before I finally wrap this thing up? Nothing much, really. I've been pushing myself quite a bit on my solo runs. I am starting (kind of, slowly) my training for the Eugene Marathon. Yes, the full one this time!! I will be doing the Turkey Stuffer 5K on Thanksgiving this year. I set my 5K PR there last year and I plan to blow that one right out of the water; hoping for a sub-24 minute 5K! Should be doable, I did a 22:02 solo while pushing a stroller that had a flat tire, and races always make me run faster than I do on my solo runs.

I'd say one of my greatest non-race related accomplishments came this past Sunday. I headed out for what I was hoping would be a 15-mile run. My longest distance had been 14 miles and I was wanting to best that. I ended up going 16!!! I was beat. The last two miles were pure agony. But, I got the bitch done and it felt AWESOME!!! I got that done after a night of camping, which consisted of eating nothing but junk food, barely hydrating and sleeping on the hard ground. Little bit of Hell I put myself through before going through a little more. It gives me hope for the marathon. But, I also wonder how the hell I plan on adding 10.2 more miles to that feat. I will do it!!

Unfortunately, I have a doctor appointment in 3 days for something I have been ignoring for far too long: a weird, painful leg problem. I think it might be my IT band, but I am not entirely sure. I will request that my doctor refer me to a sport medicine doctor because I really want this figured out. I have enough time now to rehab if I have to and get proper marathon training in. I REALLY don't want to hear that I'm going to have to take some time off; I will totally lose my shit if I can't run for even a week!!! But, I suppose that's better than having a minor stress fracture, ignoring it, and then having my ankle snap during a run. Fingers crossed that it's a problem that can be fixed with different shoes or an orthotic insert!

Well, that about does it. I believe I have summed up all of the great running stuff I have done since my last post. I'm feeling pretty on top of my running game at the moment, aside from stupid leg hurt. So, until my next entry (5 or 6 months from now, I'd wager from posts past), I am outta here!!

Happy trails!