Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great Running

The Great Race went well -- I pulled out a personal record and ran faster than I usually do in a 5k. Not too shabby. The weather held out, staying cool and overcast, perfect conditions for a race.

As much as I enjoy racing, and I do, the excitement of it all, the adrenaline rushing through my veins, pushing myself and communing with my fellow runners sometimes the best runs I have are solo. Friday evening I had one of those optimal runs, I set out after work with the goal of getting in 6 miles. I felt antsy. I had been feeling the effects of particularly virulent pms along with a pretty dismal state of the union. I needed a release and there is none better than lacing up and hitting the trail. So that I did, and upon hitting said trail it the sky opened up and it began to rain lightly. I kept running, wiping rain water from my face every so often, squinting through the drops and enjoying their cooling effect. There were very few other souls on the trail and a the air had that pleasant ozoney smell I associate with childhood. I ran up onto Herr's Island, where some of the trees had been cleared recently, so I had a wonderful open view of the river. Wondrous. Time was short, or likely I would have extended my run for hours, or as long as the light held out.

I love running with friends, my regular running buddy, it pushes me and motivates me to do better, to hang on when I feel like quitting. But when I need to overcome the negative in me, rough emotions, there is nothing better than a realigning solo run.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

I had every intention of getting up at the crack of dawn and going out for a run. No really, I did. Unfortunately my '5 more minutes' turned into 30, and I missed my morning window of opportunity. I plan to try again tomorrow with the knowledge that I need to wake up immediately. It's hard to change habits, especially when it comes to the precious sleep cycle -- but I've decided to try for the sake of more training flexibility. I buoyed myself with thoughts of experiencing a new part of the day, discovering what happens when I am usually asleep, watching the sunrise. If all else fails I figure waking that early will make my coffee taste even better.

Last night I went out with my running buddy for a pleasant run up Stanton. I am trying to work the more hills into my training in preparation for Stomp the Grapes, and Stanton is a good one for a slow, steady climb. As much as I am resistant to Fall's early nightfall I have to admit the temperature is optimal for running. We finished the run as the darkness was descending and headed over to Dozen Cupcakes for a $1 cupcake -- the perfect ending to any workout.

Sunday's Great Race is approaching fast, and I feel prepared if unsure if my time with improve. It's hard to predict how any race will go beyond a general sense, I am hoping to pleasantly surprise myself.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This weekend I finished the aforementioned memoir by Haruki Murakami, a book that details his relationship with running and in turn writing. It took me a while to get into the book, largely due to his writing style which I was unfamiliar with and the fact that the book was translated from Japanese. I began the book with expectation that I would relate to it and the author whole heartedly, the reality was a bit more subtle.

Murakami weaves together his running 'history' from the point of various races, his first marathon, an ultra-marathon, the NYC marathon, the last one he ran before the memoir's publication. He talks about his practice, how he trains, and how it balances him. He talks about the solitary nature of distance running and what makes him suited for it, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

He stresses the non-competitive nature of the sport with the vast majority of runners competing only against themselves. His aversion to team sports struck a chord with me, as I have long preferred the solitary sports. Perhaps it's a natural outgrowth of my introversion that I am motivated internally rather than externally, that I prefer to draw from within myself rather than collect and coordinate with those around me. This does not preclude a camaraderie with fellow runners and racers -- something that Murakami touches on.

The further I got into the memoir, the more I got into it, mirroring the process of warming up and hitting stride. Hard to tell if he planned it this way, but the analogy still stands. I really got a sense of his quiet resolve both to run and write, and what it took in him to continue these things. He emphasized that you can't convince someone to take up either, it's either something that suits you or it doesn't -- as I feel, I would never encourage someone to run who did not have the inclination. The drive to run is one that I got in touch with relatively recently -- once I tapped into it I realized that it was something that helped me thrive, helped me even out my edges frayed by the stress of day to day existence. I don't always feel like getting out there, day after day, but after I do I always feel better. It has become an integral part of my routine, my rhythm.

To those of you who are runners out there, I highly recommend this book, once you get warmed up, it's smooth sailing. If you are not a runner, it's hard to say you'll get much from it, unless you are engaged in some sort of long distance pursuit in your life. In the end, isn't running just a metaphor for life? I suppose this blog lays testament to that, at least on some days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Morning Glory

I am not a morning person, at least not an early morning person. I am more of a 10-10 woman peaking neither early nor late. This morning I broke from my usual routine to do an early run for my running buddy's birthday. I can think of no better way to start off a celebration of birth so I decided to join her in greeting the dawn.

I woke up around 5:45, stumbled into my running gear sleepily and headed out the door. Traffic was light at that hour and I made good time. I stopped in for a bit of pre-run coffee, even a little caffeine can make the difference between grumpy and pleasant in the early morning hours.

We drove to the post run rendezvous point and set out, the darkness was a sort of translucent inky blue. There was another pair of runners ahead of us for bit, but they turned off at a bridge and we seemed to be the only souls out at that point. I shook off my sleepy fog after about a mile and we continued on at decent clip into downtown, the sun rose almost imperceptibly. Running opposite of my normal route to work, opposite my normal time was energizing and the cool September morning air kept things fresh.

From town we headed back, up the Northshore trail and over the 40th street bridge, passing the thick commuter traffic. We ended the run at our breakfast spot -- calm and content.

I have never been a morning runner, running early only if a race start necessitated it, or when I needed to get a long training run in on a weekend. Yet, I can see the beauty of starting the day this way, so I plan on doing so again. I may never make it a part of my routine, but every so often a change of perspective is quite welcome.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Golden Delicious

Last night I got back on my bike for the first time since the accident and it felt great. I rode my old bike as my new one is still in the shop, taking a leisurely ride with my friend Heather done one side of the Allegheny and back the other. I still feel hyper vigilant and am easily startled but the act of riding feels right, delicious even.

Fall makes for getting down to business, a mood of easy diligence not yet ravaged by the cold and monotony of winter. Now that I feel physically back to normal, I've put my energies toward working on my speed for the upcoming Great Race and transitioning that into a strong half marathon. I opted to not do a long run this past weekend, running a mid distance with some tempo and easing back into things with my regular running buddy.

Things feel even and peaceful, settling down after disruption as I embrace the relaxed intensity of early Fall.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

One Half Down

I am happy to report that the Ikea half marathon went well, and I finished in a respectable 1:57:29. I've run three half marathons, and this race was in the middle time wise, which I am quite comfortable with. With my unexpected training hiatus I was nervous about how I would feel and held back a little, which enabled me to sail through the last few miles and even sprint over the finish (which is rare for me, even in a 5k). It bodes well, and I'm happy I pulled it out, now on to training for Stomp the Grapes which promises to be a much more challenging race.

The leaves are falling and a chill is creeping into the air, fall will be upon us in a few weeks. The cooler weather makes for some ideal running conditions. I enjoy autumn, and this particular season holds a milestone for me, my 30th birthday. I feel like I'm coming into a home stretch of sorts as the heat of summer burns off, the darkness falls earlier and earlier. A lot has been going on in my head in regards to this transition between my 20's and 30's -- I am looking forward to welcoming a new decade of life and all that it signifies and brings.

In the short term I'm training up for the Great Race -- which qualifies as the race of the year in Pittsburgh. I am not so much a fan of huge races, especially when it comes to the beginning shuffle, but I am looking forward to running it. As long as I remain healthy, I am hopeful that I can shave off some time and descend into Point State Park triumphant!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Back in the Swing

Forgive me for my pause from the blog-o-sphere, it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things after being unwittingly knocked off my routine. I am feeling back on top of things this week after a long, hot, Memorial Day run and some shorter more intense runs during the week. Tomorrow brings the Ikea half, I'm not aiming for any personal records, just a nice solid race.

The night before a race I always try and take it easy and eat lots of carbohydrates. Release as much nervousness as possible. My first ever race I ran with my good friend Richard, he came up from Virginia to run with me and we walked to the Italian restaurant in my neighborhood the night before. Normally wine drinkers, we had our fill of water and I feasted on some particularly tasty fish. The night before my first half marathon my friend Paki and I chowed down on some simple pasta and sauce which fueled me well the next day. Pre marathon a pizza and pretzels from the Mellow Mushroom fit the bill, along with over sized cups of sweet tea --- the Southern route to glyco-loading.

Tonight I plan on creating something from the veggies taking up residence in my refrigerator, along with some smoked cheese and pasta, perhaps some garlic bread. Quelling my nerves with carbs.