Thursday, February 26, 2009

Imperceptible Improvements

I am in the thick, or the dirty middle, of marathon training. I am over the initial mental and physical hurdles and find most days that my commitment and energy levels are strong. I've had to make some adjustments, increasing the amount of time I sleep and the amounts that I eat in order to keep things on an even keel. I feel markedly stronger than I did the first time around, owing in part to experience and in part to the support of a dedicated running partner.

Still, even with the increase in mileage, the addition of challenging speed work, it's hard to see my progress from day to day. I feel stronger but at the same time in a sort of progressive stasis. The changes to my body, to my endurance, to my speed happen slowly and inhabiting this body it's hard to see the total effect. I pick up on little things; a slightly more pronounced calf muscle, less fatigue after a fast interval.

I am reminded that change in all aspects of life follows a similar pattern. Sometimes when you start doing something to grow, something positive, it's effects aren't immediately apparent. From one day to the next you might not feel the impact, but still you wake up every day and you do the work. In the end it comes down to faith, faith that despite how you may feel, despite the setbacks, the interference of the everyday that you are building something. The faith that one day, all of the small incremental changes will add up to something substantial. It won't be an act of luck or fate when this happens but rather the result of faith, determination, and love.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Buena Vista x 4

The past few days have offered a brief reprieve from the onslaught of snow and ice of winter. I have been taking full advantage of the warmer temperatures and clear sidewalks to get in some outdoor runs. Last night I planned a trip to the gym for speed work, the only part of my training that I prefer to do on the treadmill. Walking home, however, it became apparent that not taking advantage of 60+ degree in February would be a crime, so I decided on some hill repeats close to home.

I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt soon after I got in the door, with daylight at a premium I wanted to soak in every possible minute. I strapped on my watch and my ipod and headed over a few blocks, up to one of the most daunting local hills, Buena Vista. It's an old cobblestone road connecting the flats of the Mexican War Streets with Perrysville Ave -- and also the most direct route to my best friend's house. For all the times I have travelled this road, I have only run (more aptly run / walked) up it once.

I approached the first ascent with energy and optimism. After climbing the first half of the hill at a fairly decent pace it became apparent that would not prove easy. I struggled to reach the top, and on my way down a woman stopped me, who had been walking up the hill. She commented that my running had made her feel old and out of shape, to which I replied that I was training for a marathon. She said, 'you go girl' which warmed my heart. Little encouragements certainly matter, especially when you are tackling such a large hill!

I descended the hill as night was falling in earnest taking care to not go too fast and strain my quads. I repeated this pattern three more times, each successive time making it a little less far before I had to stop and walk. The promise of a beautiful city scape on the way down kept me going towards the top even when I felt all the energy in my legs give, the oxygen deplete.

Running Buena Vista was the most challenging workout I have done thus far, and I know that the challenging workouts can be the most rewarding in the end.

Friday, February 6, 2009

House of Cards

Training has begun in earnest for the Pittsburgh Marathon -- several weeks in I am starting to feel the beginnings of a routine. This time around I have a much more ambitious training plan as well as a partner to keep me honest and on task, as well as the knowledge of what it really takes to complete 26.2. Still I worry that what I'm doing is not going to be enough, that raw emotion works well to motivate me but I believe it can also be detrimental at times.

I feel like I'm building a house of cards, building layer upon layer with my training runs that can be easily collapsed with an injury, sickness. I worry if I don't run every time I possibly can that something will come up and I won't make my weekly goal. Anxiety. It's part of the building of a new routine, trusting that I will be able to accommodate the unexpected, that I can handle cogs in the works, that missing a run here or there will not mean failing to meet my goal.

So, I sit (or rather run) with this anxiety and work on building my faith in myself, fragile as I am, I have to believe this house of cards is more stable than I imagine.