Monday, March 29, 2010

Just a Short Run

Over the past few weeks, sapphic runner land has been a pretty fatiguing and tiring place. The buildup of miles in the long runs, longer mid week runs in addition to some pretty intense speed workouts left me with little left to give. Dog tired (e-dawg tired, heh). These lows are a part of marathon training and even though I logically know they happen, they somehow always take me by surprise. Why is my temper suddenly short? The crankiness dialed up to the highest degree? It's not hard to figure out they whys with a quick glance at the training log.

So, according to our illustrious (and quite wise) training plan, we cut our mileage, I skipped my speed workout and took a few days off of work to just relax. It worked.

Saturday I approached Just a Short Run, a half-marathon and my last competitive event before the Pittsburgh Marathon with renewed energy. Last year we skipped this event, focusing on getting in a longer run. This year my goal was to run the best possible race a could, with an emphasis on the best, quality mileage I could achieve.

The day was chilly, clear, and bright -- wonderful weather for a run. I approached the starting line with my usual amount of excitement and anxiety -- happy for pace groups that ensured a smooth start. Bobbing and weaving my way to decent pace is not my idea of a good time. I started strong, enjoying a part of North Park I'd never run in previously, keeping my effort level high without over exerting myself. I settled in somewhere between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace groups, taking care to maintain my pace, drink water and to relax and enjoy as much as possible. I pushed myself, but never so much that I had to slow down and finished the race in 1:43:19, a personal record.

The race gave me a jolt of confidence and concrete marker that all my hard work over these weeks really is paying off. I am not one to micro-manage my speed and miles (though I do track them in a general way) -- so I was pleasantly surprised but what I was able to do. I felt a window of possibility open, the possiblity of making my highest marathon goal. I left the race with a sense of what could be -- and race day I will bring everything I have, and it just so happens that my everything could be enough to qualify for Boston. Until then, it's back to the grind with a little more confidence in every stride.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I feel as though the past few weeks have been a struggle, through fatigue, changes to routine -- I felt like the whole world was out enjoying the weather change and I was stuck in my 'hard times' mentality. Sure, outside the birds are chirping, the sun is glinting off Lake Elizabeth, all the snow has melted and folks are walking around with smiles on their faces, but I am sooooooooooo tired those smiles just seem to mock me.

Ever so slowly, following a return to normal nights sleep I noticed a bit of a change. Walking to work without all those layers, well that certainly felt nice. A longer stretch of daylight, the way the warmth of the sun eases my muscles, the familiar smells of earth, rain, and new growth. Slowly I felt a smile start to creep onto my face, naturally extending from the joy of a new beginning. Things began to feel more manageable. Last nights thunderstorm lulled me into a deep sleep, easing my tiredness and putting me right with world around me instead of at odds.

Just as the Winter comes after the Fall, Spring arrives after a long, cold, difficult winter. Every year. Despite my efforts to resist its easy charms, Spring is here. I'm not sure what it says about me that I hold to the difficult, almost treasure it - perhaps it's an underdog mentality nurtured by my surroundings. Pittsburgh is an underdog city if there ever was one, and as the youngest sibling I always feel a sense of living in someone else's shadow. The coming change of seasons is a good reminder that I don't always have to fight to win. The sunshine comes just the same as the cold, no matter how bleak things look, how fatigued we get, how much effort we put forth the halcyon days return eventually. I remind myself to enjoy it all, embrace the easy and relaxing fortify myself with the knowledge that rebirth and new growth will always happen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

T-minus 6 weeks and counting until the marathon -- these are the hardest weeks mentally and physically. I realize at times that marathon training skews my perspective. I'm so used to running long, running hard, running lots of miles that at the end of the week I wonder why I'm so tired, so worn out. And tired and worn out I am. The time change threw off my sleep schedule just enough that it's been difficult to get the extra sleep my body requires, leaving me fairly cranky. So much so that I'm having a difficult time feeling happy about the Spring -- as much as I love sun, warmth, light, I feel more downtrodden then I did during the height of the winter.

This too shall pass. We are cutting down are mileage this week to give our bodies a much needed respite, something I have found difficult to do in past training. Tonight I plan on taking a very easy run and then going to yoga. Rest and recovery is an important part of the process. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So, if I seem a bit ornery, short, edgy it's nothing personal, it's the fatigue. March, truly the crankiest month (at least with an early May marathon!). Be well my friends.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Joys of the Dark

Changes of season are always tough for me, particularly in the turning colder months -- even in the Spring, though it takes me a while to adjust. It takes me a few days (or in the case of winter a few weeks) to relax and adapt to my surroundings. The pure, simple joys of Spring hurry the process -- warm temperatures, clear blue skies, and the smell of knew growth all around me make it hard to stay grumpy. Self reflection and self reliance give way to a communion with the environment, movement towards extroversion.

Late winter brings about a confusion of temperature, and likewise makes it difficult to dress just right. Yesterdays run began in sunny warmth giving way to a frosty night when the sun went down. I wore a t-shirt and capris which proved just barely sufficient for the conditions. I began last nights run not with a sense of excitement and adventure but a sense of 'when will this be over'. I spent the first miles feeling uncomfortable, just a little too cold, the camelbak fitting just a little off, traffic just a little bit too heavy for me to get in the zone. Some runs are like this. Despite my love of the sport sometimes I find myself just muddling through. Luckily with the setting of the sun I found my motivation rising. In the calm of the darkness I found the kernel of pleasure in my movement through the landscape. My eyes adjusted. Occasionally a car or another runner would pass, but for the most part I felt it was just me and the trees.

Not sure what it says about me that I sometimes prefer the cold and dark to the light and the sun. Sometimes I just feel like a renegade, deriving pleasure from going against the grain. There's a certain beauty in the darkness, in stillness, in the inner reaches of the self -- it's subtle, internal. And yes, I love the obvious pleasure of the sunny day, with a slight breeze, trails filled with happy runners and walkers. I love the sun, but I find myself treasuring the dark in a way I never thought I would. I welcome Spring and longer days, with a nod to the loss of the pleasures of darkness.

Monday, March 8, 2010

dashing through the...sun

For the past month I meant to get around to writing a blog specifically about running during this years epic snow storm. I even went as far to come up with the title 'dashing through the snow' and did mental outlines at various points. Turns out it was not to be, and I find myself writing now that things have thawed out, despite the chill of late winter the sun is shining and melting the remaining snow piles down to dirty city streams and crunchy ice layers.

I am entering the second phase of marathon training and things are going well. I managed to run as best I could during the month of February, and counted myself lucky that I live just a few blocks from my gym -- at points I felt like I was working out more than I would have without the snow fall. Jess and I ran the annual Spring Thaw, and I saw an improvement in my time from last year which I was pleased about, but I was short of the pace I need to qualify for Boston this year. It made me realize that though the goal of qualifing is a good one, and it helps me amp up and stay on track there is the possibility that it will not happen this race. It threw me for a loop, but this is all part of the training process, all part of setting an ambitious goal. I have made peace with the fact that though I am still striving to achieve a 3:40 marathon I will be ok if I fall short. 3:40 is a stars align type of a goal, more realistically I seek to improve my time from last years marathon and truth be told finishing another marathon, despite any adverse circumstances will be something to celebrate.

Watching the Olympics brought up a lot of 'what if I don't make it' feelings for me, seeing atheletes at the top of their sport, with so much riding on this one competition falling short -- well it made me feel scared about my own chances of achieving my goal / dream. Perspective. It's hard to keep sometimes, and a balancing act of pushing myself, motivating myself and resting and letting go. I do care about the result. If I didn't care about the result, the goal wouldn't motivate me, but at certain point, with all the motivation that the goal provides it's imperative to let go and let God. Running gives me joy and pleasure (and yes, pain too), it focuses me, provides me with an outlet as well as a link to a higher state of being. The goal is important but less so for a single moment of achievement then the way it enriches the journey.