Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." 
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

With Tropical Storm Isaac approaching and my long run day approaching, I made the decision not to move my long run. My legs were pretty fried on Friday night after mile repeats Thursday morning and a CrossFit workout consisting of nearly 100 box jumps that afternoon, plus 3 miles Friday morning and another CrossFit workout of 50lb prowler sled pushes and over 100 deadlifts. I needed to rest on Saturday and figured I'd take my chances with Isaac on Sunday morning. 

I awoke sometime early Sunday morning to the sound of high winds and rain. Thinking my run was out of the question, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Surprisingly, when I climbed out of bed, there was only evidence that it had rained, and suddenly, the run was back on. By the time I dressed and headed out the door, a light drizzle had begun. I was still uncertain of how far I would go. At one point I had decided to do 3.3 mile loops around my neighborhood, but I know myself too well, and I would've bailed out too early. So, the plan became 7 miles out and then the return trip home. Dreading leaving my iPod at home more than facing the weather, I headed out the door. 

I ran through the bands of the storm-- bouts of heavy rain and wind gusts. The streets were mostly deserted, although I did pass 3 other "crazies"-- a woman on a bike and another 2 walking. We laughed at ourselves and wished each other "good morning." I ran with only my thoughts as company for almost 2 hours and 20 minutes, farther than I've ever gone without music for preoccupation before. 

Once again the run taught me a lesson. My mind is more powerful than I know. I didn't need music to help me through 14 miles with wet, squishy shoes. All I needed was my own determination.

See, Mom, the weather wasn't really that bad at all.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lessons from the Pack

"Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance."
-Samuel Johnson

Well, I've recently signed on to do one of the craziest things I've ever attempted in my life: I registered for a GORUCK Challenge. One of the tag lines is "8-10 hours. 15-20 miles. Good livin'." Basically, it involves the aforementioned hours of miles wearing a ruck (short for rucksack-- a military type backpack) filled with 4 bricks (yes, the building kind that you buy at Home Depot) among other things. At the risk of frightening my mother, I'll post the link, in case you're curious:

Why I would sign up to do such a thing will be the subject of another post, probably when I'm on the other side of the GORUCK. Because by then, maybe I can answer that question.

I'm learning much through training. I've begun running 4 miles at a time with first 2 bricks and now 3 bricks. I'm slowing building miles and adding bricks. I've never before run under added weight, except for 16 oz of water that I carry in my fuel belt and a few Cliff bars or gels, so this has been a whole new experience. Running has always been such a blatant metaphor for life to me. On yesterday's run, carrying the weight on my shoulders, I couldn't miss the message. 

Each step became more difficult. At times I felt the pack was too much, and that I could no longer go forward. The burden seemed heavier with each minute that passed. The load increasingly becoming more noticeable. I wavered between moments of "Just stop; it's not worth the effort it takes to continue down this path," and "I can do this; I will not stop." I questioned my goals and my ability to achieve them. And then a wave of understanding crushed me. God reminded me of my former students who have lost a parent, of a friend who's granddaughter has a brain tumor, of a friend who's child has a disease that alters every day, of friends who have suffered miscarriages, of friends who have lost loved ones too early. I prayed for them all, heartbroken for the weights that they carry-- weights that they can't take off at the end of a run.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I've Found the Secret

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
-Steve Prefontaine

Ok, well here's the secret to running a great race-- there is no secret. It's just lots of really hard work. I had a great race yesterday. My best ever. I thought I'd blog about how it came about, so I can remember for the next one.

Speed work. Every good training plan has this. Every article on running faster recommends this. So, in five years of running, why have I never been dedicated to faithfully doing it? Because it's easier to just plod along and check off the miles. In the month between my last 5k (25:11) and this 5k (24:16) I did one speed session a week: 8 x 400s, 4- 1 mile repeats, 6 mile tempo run, and 8 miles with 2- 3 milers at just under a 5k pace.

Suffering. At some point before the race, you have to commit to embracing the pain. It was literally only the day before the race that it finally clicked in me. If I want to run under 8 minute miles, I'm going to have to push through pain. The whole 5k. Again, this may seem like an obvious one. And I've known this concept, but I've never really known this concept. It's so much easier to pretend I'm running my fastest; it's not painful. You have to be willing to hear your brain yelling at you to slow down or you're going to die (my brain gets a little dramatic and makes some pretty big overstatements), and ignore it. Then not only ignore it, but prove it wrong by running faster.

Mantra. I have several phrases I pull out in desperate times to help me ignore the discomfort. For this particular 5k I used "Run Strong." I usually have this inner dialogue that goes something like this, "You've trained hard. You've lifted heavy. You're legs are strong." This time the pep talk was abbreviated to two words.

No medal, but I earned a free week of CrossFit.