Monthly Archives: August 2016

Surprise! It’s a…….

Unexpected 15k!

A couple of weekends ago, I ran a surprise 15k race. It shouldn’t have been a surprise race since I signed myself up to run it, however after I signed up, I promptly forgot to put it on my calendar. I knew it was coming up sometime “soon,” but I thought it was at the end of August and not the beginning. Whoops!

I discovered my error on the Tuesday prior to the race when my cousin and I were discussing our running goals, and I reminded myself to confirm which weekend the race was taking place. I was horrified when I realized that, instead of two weeks to train, I had just 5 days. Upon making this discovery, I had two thoughts: one being that I didn’t have to do the race if I didn’t want to, the other was that of course I was going to do the race because I signed up to do it and I paid good money! The one thing I had working for me was that I had continued to run a few times a week throughout the summer, and the one thing I had working against me was that the longest distance I had run since May was 5 miles. The 15k was 9.3 miles. Uh-oh…

As you can see, the math really didn’t add up, and I was a little anxious about the prospect of doubling my distance in the span of a week. I did seriously consider, all paid entrance fees aside, not running, but I reminded myself of the four magic words that are a comfort to all runners in times of distress- “I can always walk.”

I hadn’t signed up for the race with the intention of winning; it was simply the first in a series of marathon readiness training races, and, since I wasn’t born with that weird genetic mutation that makes me naturally graceful and quick on my feet, I never expect to be the first one to the finish, so, I can always walk.

I continued to tell myself that I could walk if I needed to right up until I crossed the finish line. I told myself that I could walk as I ate my banana in the dark hours of early morning. I reminded myself that walking was an option as I stood in line for one last restroom visit before the race, and, as I sat on the curb near the start line and contemplated NOT running the race and instead just cheering the other runners along as the made their way to the finish- my thought being that Don would never know if I had actually run the race since medals were not awarded and if I stood out in the sun for the appropriate amount of time I’d likely be as sweaty as if I’d actually run- I convinced myself to run by again repeating my mantra of “I can always walk.”

And, you know, I really didn’t need to. When I realized that I had doomed myself to tackle an obstacle I wasn’t prepared for, I made a plan that I hoped would get me to the other side without too much pain, and it worked! One of the benefits of the FitBit Surge watch that Don gave me this Spring is that it can show you your pace as your run, so the plan I made was to stay between a 9:30 or 10:00 minute mile pace until mile 7. The trap I sometimes fall into during a race is that I get caught up in the excitement of the event and I run a little above my pace for the first several miles which just makes me tired at the end. Usually I have done enough training that my fitness levels can get me through the fatigue, but I was worried that I hadn’t done enough over the summer to compensate for over-doing it at the beginning of the race, so by keeping an eye on my pace I managed to make sure I had enough left in my gas tank to finish strong.

The other thing that I think was crucial in helping me finish this race feeling pretty good was that, although I hadn’t run farther than 5 miles since May, the 5 miles that I ran most weekends were through the hilly Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. Those hills can make or break you and I’ll have to remember to thank them the next time I’m struggling to make my way to the top, because they made me strong enough to get through miles 6 through 9.3.

My”surprise” race went pretty well; I didn’t need to walk other than when I stopped at the aid stations to grab a drink, and I finished in about 1:30 feeling pretty good. I don’t know that I’ve ever run with a concrete plan like this before. I often check my pace, but it’s more out of curiosity and to see if my endurance has improved than anything else. I think, as I run more of these races leading up to “the BIG ONE” in December (there are 4 or 5 races in this Marathon readiness series), I might play with the concept of having a specific goal of what pace I want to achieve. Who knows, maybe it will help make me a little bit faster?

 

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Core Power Yogaaaaaaaaa! YOU get to Sweat! And YOU get to Sweat!

Don and I were feeling the burn last week when we took our local Core Power Yoga studio up on its offer of a free week trial. Yeah, thats right an entire WEEK of FREE yoga! What could be better?

Neither Don nor I had ever done yoga in any serious sort of setting. I occasionally do some yoga here at home, mostly Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube,  on days when I just can’t get it together to do any other sort of exercise or on days when I’m feeling particularly stiff and sore and old. I think the closest Don has come to going yoga is his post-run stretching. Neither of us is very flexible, and we both hope to become a little more bendy by conscientiously reminding our bodies to streeeetch and move in ways that do not involve running or lifting (or sitting or lying down peacefully in a hammock).

We started on a Monday evening, and, unfortunately for those of us who like a nice early bedtime on a work night, the only beginner’s class that fit into our schedule began at 8:45 that night. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was a little nervous to be doing yoga in public with others around to witness, but I thought that a yoga session right before bed sounded like a very relaxing thing. We were greeted by a yoga instructor named Leah who is quite possibly the most enthusiastic person I have ever met and she seemed overjoyed that she got to be our very first yoga instructor in the very first yoga class of our lives. If she hadn’t seemed so genuinely happy and upbeat, I would have rolled my eyes at her, but, you guys, this girl is the real deal. Just being in the same room with her made me see everything through rose-colored lenses; her sweat should probably be bottled and sold as an antidepressant.

As the class began, it seemed like Leah was trying to tell us what she had for dinner (Chana Masala?) or that she has obscure taste in music (Chaka Kahn?) or maybe she had made a really good point about something and wanted to drop the mic on her way out (BOOM shakala!). It turns out that the series of movements we complete to get from one pose to another in yoga (essentially going from standing to a high plank, to low plank, to an upward facing dog) is called a chaturanga dandasana. Say that one five times real fast. The class began with a brief demonstration of the movements, a lesson in how to breathe, and advice to do what we can, and, if we needed to check in with our breath at any time, to get back into child’s pose and take a minute.

I loved the yoga. I loved it so incredibly much. This is how the studio gets people to join; they offer you a free week, you get hooked, and then you crave that awesome feeling. On our first two days of the trial, we attended level 1 classes which, according to the CPY literature, is great for people without yoga experience (ME!). On day three, the only class we could attend was a level 2 class that CPY recommends you have some yoga experience for (2 days is ‘some’ right?), and this was a reach for both of us; Don actually spent a good portion of the hour in child’s pose “checking in with his breath.” Over the weekend, we tried some of the Yoga Sculpt classes that combine yoga with some lifting of light weights with a lot of repetitions, and I think I got the best workouts I’ve had in a while in these classes.

I thought the yoga would be a little bit of a workout and very relaxing, and I completely underestimated the physical challenges that would present themselves. At one point when I was bending forward to hang my torso in rag doll pose, my sweat started trickling into my nostrils; I was literally drowning in my own sweat.

By the time Sunday, the last day of our trial, rolled around, I was all chaturanga’d out. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea, as someone who had never done yoga in an instructional setting, to go every day for a week without a break, but the frugal New Englander in me just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a FREE class. My Dad once told me that I should never turn down a free meal (solid advice, for sure) and I’ve taken that sage wisdom and applied it to… everything. I love free, and I loved the yoga, so it only seemed appropriate that I yoga until I couldn’t yoga anymore.

While I struggled to lift my arms at the end of the week (shoulders, so sore), and hold the chair pose for any length of time (quads, so sore), each day I could feel my hamstrings lengthen and my body become more flexible overall. I will definitely try yoga-ing again, I definitely can’t afford to go every day (even though I really REALLY want to), but I should be able to swing a couple of classes a month. Don seemed just as pleased with his yoga experience. He, the fitness freak that he is, particularly enjoyed the challenging yoga sculpt classes (in one, we burned almost 500 calories in an hour according to our FitBits) and even purchased his very own yoga mat, so I know he plans on going back.

Child’s Pose, aka Downward Facing Don

Stretch Armstrong

'Eau De Workout
‘Eau De Workout

Nothing says summer in Hawaii like a pile of sweaty laundry. Our tropical air has turned hot and heavy, and it, once again, feels as if I need gills to breathe. I’m feeling extra loagie today because the air conditioner at work is broken, and I sweated through eight hours of computer work huddled in front of a tiny desk-fan that I scurried out to buy this morning.

I feel like broken AC in Hawaii should be cause for closing the office and sending everyone home- not that I have AC at home, but at least I wouldn’t be wearing khakis and an oxford emailshirt- but that was not the case, sadly. It’s really too bad, I could have used a beach day! I’ve had a lot going on lately; I was working overtime for a while which made it hard to fit in exercise at the end of the day, and over the weekend I received a threatening email.

The email was reminding me that only three weeks remain before the start of the Marathon Training Clinic that successfully got me to the start and finish lines of last year’s Honolulu Marathon. I thought by now I’d be recovered, both mentally and physically, from last year’s effort and feel ready to take on the challenge once again, but I’m kind of dreading it.

I think I’m physically recovered; I’ve been trying to stay running fit by logging at least 9 miles a week (which, as you well know, is nothing compared to training for the big race), and I’ve been making it a point to keep up with the stretches that helped ease the knee pain that accompanied those many miles last Fall. The stretches, I realize, are immensely helpful because, while I was working overtime, I lost the hour or so of TV time that I usually have after dinner which is when I do the helpful stretches, and my IT band started to feel tight and sore again. I’ve been trying not to let that happen again, so I’m focusing my non-running workouts on strengthening the rest of my body and I’ve also been trying (as always) to increase my flexibility.

I’m definitely not mentally recovered from the marathon. It’s just such a long, goddamned way to run, you know? And it’s going to be hot, and I’m going to get sweaty, and my legs will be sore, and I’m going to be hungry every waking moment of every single day. It’s all just a little too much! Last week, I had to give myself a pep talk just to finish a two-mile run, so how the eff am I supposed to run 26.2 miles?

Right now, as I sit on the couch, sticky and head-achy from a day of suffering in the heat (did I mention our office doesn’t really have any windows, so not only was there no AC, but there was also no fresh air), I feel like I could go the rest of my life without running another step. But, then I remember how much fun I have when I’m schlepping along with similar-paced friends, and I think of all the nice views I got to see that I never otherwise would have seen, and the good feeling of being finished with a run (come on- the BEST feeling) comes to mind, and, also, I do wonder if I will be able to shave seconds off my marathon time. I guess I’m not throwing in the towel yet (although I do still have three weeks to decide- I kid!).

In the three weeks remaining before marathon season gets going, I’m going to really push myself to focus on my flexibility. No more skipping the post-run stretching, and hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate a little more yoga into my fitness regime.  I’ll admit that I was partly inspired by the good advice I’ve received over the years from medical and fitness professionals, butI was also inspired by Betsey Johnson. Yeah, fashion design icon Betsey Johnson. I was watching the Food Network show  ‘Worst Cooks in America,’ and Betsey Johnson mad a guest appearance, did a cartwheel followed by a split, and then confessed that she is 71 years old. Yikes; I’ve gotta step up my flexibility game. There is no reason that, if a 71 year old lady can still cartwheel and do splits, that I can’t touch my toes. I’m not aiming for cartwheels and splits, my goal is simply a little less Humpty Dumpty, who was so stiff and brittle he fell to pieces, and a little more Gumby. Any tips fellow non-fitness freaks?