Monday, October 24, 2016

Adventures in Marathon Training

In one week I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time.
This will be my 5th full marathon, the 1st I've ever traveled outside the state to do.

At this point in my 18 week training plan, I've run 534 miles with just about 22 to go.
If my sketchy math is correct, that works out to be about 88 hours of running.

Before you think I've done something remarkable, let me say: ANYONE CAN RUN A MARATHON. All it takes is a good training plan, time to do the training and the commitment to make it happen.

And that leads me to tell you why YOU might enjoy marathon training:

1. All the calories... burned and eaten.
I cannot tell a lie. I absolutely love to eat. It might be my favorite thing, other than date night with my husband (and typically that is dinner out). But let me caution... marathon training isn't a license to eat unlimited quantities of everything. Health comes first. Gorging on cookies, coffee drinks, burgers and fries isn't going to give your body the nutrients it needs to repair your muscles and perform well. There are stories out there from people who gain weight while training for a marathon-- I suspect it's because they over estimate the calories burned and underestimate the calories consumed.

2. Peace and quiet.
I will have logged somewhere around 92 hours of running in my 18 weeks of training. That's a lot of "me" time! Being outside, away from the pressing needs of family, home, and work feels absolutely freeing. I love to run in the morning when traffic is light. I run to my favorite music or podcasts. I have prayer time, think time and just time to zone out. I've seen lovely sunrises, discovered nature and found some interesting items.

3. Strong body. Strong mind.
Following the training program has allowed me to gradually build my strength and endurance. And I really don't think any physical activity builds mental toughness quite like a long run. You are just out there. When the legs begin to ache and the lungs burn what are you going to do? Give in? Stop and walk? Or are you going to continue, pausing only mentally to take inventory and determine if the Achilles had really snapped or if the mind is playing tricks.

4. Learning about my community.
I love finding new running routes or revisiting my favorites. I pass the same walkers on sunny Sunday mornings. I know which parks have good water fountains and open restrooms. I know the shady and hilly spots. And when I travel or finally get to my race, in my mind I can picture exactly where I am on my favorite routes. It really is like those t-shirts:
Strong Girl Clothing
5. Learning about me.
Maybe the most valuable part of running is that I enter a deeper relationship with myself. That might seem like a strange statement, but nowhere else do I take the time to meditate on my life. What's bothering me? Why's it bothering me? I think about where I am and where I want to be (other than at home in my bath with a smoothie, that is). I replay various situations from the days before, thinking through the good and the bad. I make decisions and resolutions. I make plans and dreams. And hopefully, I make a better me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

GORUCK Tough, Fort Lauderdale 7/29/16

The Ft. Lauderdale Tough wasn't the first GORUCK event I've done, but I'm pretty sure it was the best. Although, I'm not sure that's the truth. And that may be why it's taken me more than 2 full months to tell the story of this particular event.

Some races or events that I do are "one and done." Maybe the event is unique, under special circumstances for me or is especially meaningful. Some events I come back to again and again for various reasons. World's Toughest Mudder, for example is probably a "one and done" for me due to the expense of the event and travel and, to be perfectly transparent, the Cliff jump. Spartan is an event I'll do again and again because I'm so very competitive, and I'm always trying to best myself.

I thought GORUCK would be a "one and done." My first was a fairly miserable experience made amazing only because of the relationships that formed. I vividly remember making my friend Cindy promise me that she wouldn't allow me to ever do another one again. You can read my review, but I'll just say that there were hours of physical effort performed without much instruction. Our cadre seemed mostly bored with us and the whole event, but maybe he was just a laid back kind of guy.

Getting ready for the start.
A year and some time later, I found myself once again registering with Cindy for the first All Women's event-- a combo of a Challenge, Light and Scavenger. This time, the experience of the event matched the relationship building aspect. Our cadre poured into us from their life experiences. We learned almost as much as we worked. We sang, built friendships and shared stories of our journeys that led us to that place. And let me tell you, Cindy and I had THE BEST breakfast ever made as we rested from the 12 hour Challenge and prepared for the 6 hour Light. I had found a fondness for GORUCK.

This summer, GORUCK decided to thank public servants by offering a free event to teachers, police officers, firefighters and military service members. And this time I was the one convincing a friend of mine to join me.

Here's what makes GORUCK great-- you have a group of 20-or-so mostly strangers from a variety of backgrounds who come together for a night of physical training, heavy rucking (walking with a weighted back pack), and various challenges that must be overcome (for example, get to point A by a cutoff time; care for and carry a casualty or multiple casualties). By the end of 12-ish hours, you pretty much will do anything for the good of the people standing next to you, even if it means you have to buddy carry them and their weighted pack.

 For the Ft. Lauderdale Tough, we were assigned Cadre Machin. From the start he had us working on relationship building-- we introduced ourselves while doing some PT, and it wasn't long before we headed to the beach for a vast amount of buddy carries. (I really had no idea there were so many ways to carry a human.) He taught the pros and cons of the different ways to carry a casualty, and how to construct a stretcher using old t-shirts. It was tiring, but overall an awesome learning experience. From there we seemed to walk for hours. Mercifully, we were given a few breaks, and there were more moments of teaching. We climbed a tower. We debated Pokemon Go (I could not even believe the large number of people out on their phones collecting Poke-whatevers.) Leaders were chosen to keep the team working as a unit and making good time. At one point we surrendered our rucks and did a "2 mile" run (that many agreed was more like 4 or 5 miles).
We hiked for what seemed like days. We stopped for breaks and PT ("kettlebell" swings, overhead presses, squats and even biceps curls with our rucks).  There may or may not have been a Starbucks stop. We did some work with ropes, learning how to effectively tie a rope for a traverse and then did the traverse using carabiners.

Overall, I think this really was my favorite GORUCK for the quality of the event. It wasn't a beatdown. It wasn't a "let's pretend we're really Special Forces" role play. It was challenging. And fun. I built relationships with friends and made new ones. And after this, I'm a huge fan of GORUCK.