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Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 St. George Marathon – Part Two: Race Review

There’s more to a race than the race.
Not in the moment, of course. In the moment, all that matters is the mile, the next step, the next breath. But for a marathon weekend to be a truly exceptional experience, there are a lot of little things that add up, and the St. George Marathon does a lot of those things well.
Honestly, my biggest complaint is travel difficulty. Unless you want to spend quite a lot of money, you can’t fly directly into St. George, so you fly into Las Vegas instead. For me, that meant a layover in LA as well, so after a 3 hour flight to California, 90 minutes in the airport and another hour to Vegas, you then get to unwind with a two hour drive through a beautiful-but-slightly-nerve-wracking gorge. Of course, without the location, you wouldn’t have the 2500-foot net drop on the course, so it’s all a matter of what that’s worth. The trip was worth it for me once, but would probably be the thing that keeps me away in the future.
And really, it would be the only thing. I started my weekend at the expo, hoping to catch the First Timer’s Clinic, but a ground stop in Vegas due to wind delayed me just enough to miss the course explanation. The expo was impressive, with better-than-average giveaways, including my favorite expo coupon of all time: $10 off dinner at Buca di Beppo. In addition to the usual plastic gear check bag, they also included a nice-ish drawstring bag, which I thought was a nice touch. The tech shirt is bright and long-sleeved, two things I’m going to need out of a shirt in the coming months. Swag goes a long way with me, and I was pleased to start.
One thing to watch out for is booking hotels. You want to do this as soon as you know that you’re in the race, because they fill up very quickly. That being said, I was a latecomer, and ended up in the Econolodge, which, okay, is an Econolodge, but it perfectly suited my needs. It was within half a mile of the finish line, had a hot tub that was almost never in use by anyone else, and had a coffee maker in the room. Yes, those are my only requirements.
I had the added bonus of getting a room with a handicap-accessible shower. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a post-marathon shower (a fun little game called Find the Chafing), you can imagine the unequaled joy of having a fold-down seat and not having to climb over the edge of a tub. It was magical. Sure, the shower head only came up to my chest, but I made do just the same.
The race packet was flush with information, and there was not a thing I needed to know that I couldn’t find in there. The bus-loading was orderly and focused, and they even handed out free gloves as we got to the starting area, just in case you’d forgotten yours. The bonfires were excellent and well-tended, and despite the huge number of people, I always had access to warmth and a restroom within a reasonable amount of time. I imagine those who got there late did not have the same experience, but we early risers were care for nicely.
Gear check got a little hectic right before race time, and we started a few minutes late, but once I was on the course, all was forgotten. Some of the water stops were a short way from the mile markers, and as someone who has to plan for my refueling carefully, I would have liked more exact measurements, but they were well-stocked and well-staffed. Not a lot of crowd support until the very end, but enough scenery that you don’t mind so much. Finish line was fantastic. Again, well-stocked, though I would have liked some sort of bag or box in which to carry all the goodies they were passing out. I used my hat instead.
I was a little woozy, so I can’t comment on the awards ceremony or anything like that, but I greatly appreciated the app they had set up for the race, which included accurate and immediate results. I guess they had some issues with the half-marathon point for live-tracking, but it showed up in my splits when I finished. Overall, excellently run race day.
The rest of the day was sort of lazy, and I guess there really is not too much to do throughout the town of St. George, though most marathoners aren’t looking for crazy nightlife right after a race. There’s a bar in town called The One and Only because, you guessed it, it’s the one and only bar in town. I found great food, however, at George’s Corner and Iggy’s, and that’s just where I could bring myself to walk.
It’s a lovely town, with an excellent race and an elevation drop that can carry you right over the wall. If you’re looking for a fast race in a quiet town, you’ve got it, just be ready for the travel.
And for the hill at mile 19.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 St. George Marathon – Part One: The Race

At mile 22, I knew I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

At mile 24, I was certain I wasn’t even going to finish.

I’ll use another post tomorrow to give my general opinion of the St. George Marathon weekend in all its glory, but today, I’m just remembering the race and the hours leading up to it. And there were several hours. Why? Because I’m a sucker for a raffle.

The start line for the St. George Marathon is not close to St. George. It’s a point-to-point course that drops 2500 feet from start to finish. This means two things: first, if you’re going to check what the weather will be like at the start, the weather in St. George means nothing, and two, you’ve got to get on a bus to get to the line. In order to encourage more fools like myself to get to the line early and not crowd the late buses, they offer raffle prizes to those who board between 4:00 and 4:15 am. Yes, it’s impossibly early.

And though I didn’t win anything in the raffle, I did get an unexpected benefit to my early start. The open seat at the front of the bus was next to Scott, a 4-time St. George veteran who gave me a course tutorial as we drove up the hill. Most importantly, he warned me about “the wall,” a half mile hill that doesn’t seem to show up on any elevation map of the course and hits just before the 20-mile mark, when runners tend to hit the other kind of wall.

We arrived at line around 4:45, two hours before the gun time, and I spent most of the next 90 minutes huddling near various bonfires while trying not to inhale too much smoke. As the crowds began to build, I threw my check bag into the truck and wandered past the elite starting gate, wondering why they got so much space to themselves, and how on earth they were going to run the start with all the people standing in line for the bathrooms right there. As I pondered this, I heard the guy manning the entrance to the elite area say, “No, sorry, your bib has to be orange.”

Wait a minute, I have an orange bib.

I headed up to the man who checked my number and let me in to the warm up area where we had our own water, our own bathrooms and our own bonfires. Lesson learned, I guess. It was now about 25 minutes to the race, and I warmed up a bit, got lined up, and synced all the various technologies with which I run. The horn sounded a few minutes late, and we headed off through the darkness.

The first few miles were dark. So much so, that the run was almost eerie. I tossed my warm-up pants at the one mile mark and my sweatshirt at the two. As usual, I had some trouble establishing a constant speed, which was not helped by the fact that I had to use the light on my watch to see what it was. After a few rolling miles, things started downhill, and I caught my rhythm, just in time for Veyo.

Veyo, Utah is the first spectator area on the course, and you hit it around the 7-mile mark. I took my water and my first gel of the day and tried not to enjoy the cheering too much. I hit my 10K split right on goal time and looked up to the worst hill of the course, as far as elevation goes. It’s a roughly 120 climb over the course of a mile, but the bend in the road makes it seem like it’s never going to end. I pushed my pace a little, knowing that relief would follow, and I ended up fairly winded by the top. Still, we bent back down for the next mile, and I kept right on pace. More uphill through 10 and 11 before the great decline kicked in.

Now I was moving. I knew that 15 miles to go was no joke, so I focused on my pace, keeping myself from moving too fast on the downs or slowing too much on the ups. I increased my pace, as planned, and settled in, hoping to just keep going. And for a good while, I did.

Then I hit 17.

This is the point where I can always start to feel the work happening in my legs. In South Bend, I’d overdone it tremendously by that point, so the work spelled the beginning of the end, but on this day, I believed I still had it in me. And then I saw the wall.

It looked impossibly steep, but I had one bit of relief: it came earlier than I expected. I thought it was closer to the 20 mile mark, but in fact it built up to the 19. That may not seem like a big difference, but when you hit the last awful part of a course and that that “easy from here” feeling, one mile is a big change. I walked through the water station at 19 to fuel my heart and legs and took off down the hill.

At 22, I knew I could do it. But the wheels were starting to come off. There were more small uphills than I’d realized, and every one of them sent shockwaves through my quads. I had to walk through the water stations of 21 and 23, and by the time I hit 24, I really began to wonder if I could complete the race. There just wasn’t enough downhill to propel me forward, and my need to walk was increasing exponentially. Still, I kept doing math, knowing that the longer I ran at a strong pace, the easier the pace would be that would qualify me. And through all the music and noise, I was suddenly at 25.2 miles. One to go, and 10 minutes in which to do it and qualify for Boston.

Even coming down the home stretch, I still refused to celebrate. What if I tripped? What if I passed out? The infinite things that can go wrong at the end of a race started going through my head at a pace much faster than the one I was running.

And then the announcer said my name. And I went nuts.

It hurt. I was exhausted, and couldn’t really eat for the next two hours, but I qualified, a month and a half shy of my 30th birthday.

Boston 2015, here I come.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This Time of Morning

It’s not quite dark, but it’s certainly not light.

Not quite cold, but cooler than it will be later.

It’s not quite morning, but I wouldn’t call it night either.

I have always loved this time of morning. In college, I loved it for different reasons. Usually, 5:00am meant the end of an amazing evening spent among friends and libations. It meant that if we stayed up just a little while longer, we’d get to see the sunrise, and fall asleep to the first chirpings of the birds. In most cases, it meant that I didn’t have anywhere else to be the following day, or at least nowhere I actually intended to go, and I could spend the day in whatever mode I chose, which often involved sleeping until afternoon.

Those days are fairly definitively behind me. I think I’ve stayed up until sunrise once in the last five years, and it was an exceptionally rough day that followed. And why did I do that? Work. I had to send reports, so I pulled an all-nighter. Woo. Party.

Now, 5:00am means something else entirely. It means the echoes of my footfalls coming back to me undisturbed. If I come across a stoplight, it’s usually only a moment or two before I can safely cross, with no cars on the road to interrupt. While the rest of the world sleeps, I’m working, taking one step after another toward my Boston Qualifier. I’m doing what the other guy isn’t, and that’s how I’ll get there.

I’ve run 8 of the last nine days, and I’m feeling great. With a superb speed workout last Thursday and a non-stop 20 miler on Saturday, I’ve crested the hill of training. Now, it’s all about the taper. Decreasing the mileage while maintaining the speed. Admittedly, I haven’t been great about keeping the mileage up, so the taper is only pseudo-science at the moment, but I believe in it, because I’ve been able to keep going. I’ve been able to do all the things I would expect myself to be able to do in order to qualify. Less than three weeks from now, I will be in the best shape I’ve even been in to take on a marathon.

So now, I just stay smart. Don’t push if it hurts. Eat regularly. Drink tons of water. And get lots of sleep.

But not so much that I miss this time of morning.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 100

One hundred days ago, I made a commitment.

I decided that, in order to help preserve my ability to get up in the morning and put in the miles I will need to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I would not have another drink - not even a sip - until I qualify. I officially quit smoking on the same day. More than 14 weeks later, that side of things is going extremely well.

Now, for the actual running part, well, that's been a little less productive. Not entirely, but less than I would like. I've gotten in a couple of 20 milers, including one in the unrelenting hills of Virginia, Maryland and DC. I've got one more scheduled this coming Saturday, too, so I don't expect endurance to be a problem.

As to speed, I wish I had done more speedwork throughout this season. I've had plenty of fast runs, and I'm finding that my pacing is better than what I've had in recent months, but I would still be happy to get in a few half-mile repeats, and I've got three more sessions scheduled, assuming I get up for them.

Still, I'm feeling good. I'm feeling confident. 25 days to the marathon, and I'm healthy and running.

That's all I need.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Morning Endorphins

It's been a while. 

And that refers to a lot of things in my life. I haven't done any theatre since February. I haven't had any alcohol or tobacco in almost three months. I haven't blogged in... whatever it says over there. -->

But most importantly, it's been a while since I've felt as good as I'm feeling this morning. I've run the last three days, all by myself. Sunday and Monday were strong pace runs, and this morning was a nice, easy recovery. My muscles don't hurt, my joints don't hurt, and with a little over a month until the St. George Marathon, I'm feeling very much in control of my body and my future.

Yesterday, my wife proposed that we finally make good on this idea we'd been having about keeping our lives in order. The idea includes waking up early and getting exercise, making sure we have breakfast, and keeping up on things around the house, like making sure the floor is swept and the kitchen is clean. These are all things that should be easy to maintain, but get more difficult the longer you go without them. By controlling the moments in our lives that we can control, it makes the out-of-control moments easier to take. 

So, at a little after 5:00am today, I hit the streets, morning humidity and all. After a shower, I feel like I could do it again. I've got the morning endorphins running through me, and while the rest of the day may take it all out of me, at least I'll have a fairly pleasant commute this morning.

And that's got to count for something.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I’m not an ideal distance runner.
Far from it, actually. Your typical elite marathon runner is going to be around 5’7” and 120 pounds, and yes, that’s the men. Even Ryan Hall, American marathoner extraordinaire, whose head can be seen peaking over the top of any race pack, is only 5’10” and 130. I’ve got two inches and 30 pounds on the best runner in the country.
Now, normally, I’m glad to be taller, and I don’t think for a moment that I need to drop 30 pounds. Still, you can’t escape one basic fact: less weight is easier to carry. There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of muscle-bound marathon runners. Our kind keeps slim to put less pressure on the legs and conserve energy for those later miles. The smaller you are, the faster you can go. In theory.
There is still hope for us giants, though. If we can’t be lighter, we must be stronger or smarter. Or both. I’m working on the second in the hopes of the first.
As I mentioned before, I’m trying to focus somewhat on my form of late, but I also want to take a look at my cadence. Elite male marathoners average approximately 180 steps per minute. Quite frankly, it’s strange to see how close they are to that number. In the 2011 Boston Marathon, someone did a study of the cadence of the top ten runners and all were within 8 steps of 180. It’s a magic number, so to speak, and a good target to aim for.
Here’s the potential problem: does being taller affect the optimal rate of my cadence? The elite women in the same marathon were an average of 7-10 steps more per minute, so should I be aiming for something a little under 180?
Well, I don’t know. To be honest, I haven’t done as much research in this department as I’d like. I do know that practicing a quicker turnover will help get me faster. That seems to be a given in the limited articles that I’ve read, so I started work on that today. I’m not going to spend a 15-mile run trying to take extra steps, but a speed work day seemed like a perfect time to give it a go. I did my first three half-mile repeats as normal, and then pulled out the iPhone.
I don’t run with music anymore, so it was strange to try and move with cords flying all over the place, but I had downloaded a metronome app (yes, they have one for everything), so I set it to 180 and started off. Almost immediately, I realized the difference.
Hills. Hills are the difference.
On flat ground, 180 is pretty close to standard for me, but going up or down hills, my stride instinctively lengthens, which it really should not be doing. Taking longer strides on hills will cause injury going up or down, and I’ve been doing it without realizing it. Thank you, metronome, for showing me the error of my ways.
Repeats four and five went well, but I bailed on the cadence halfway through my last repeat. I found it very tough to change the basic mechanics of my stride, so I had to finish the last lap in normal steps. However, the experiment got me through my first speed workout in months without much agony or exhaustion, and so I think I’ll try it again next week.
Because however hard it is, it’s got to be easier than changing my height.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day Six: Form

There are many reasons I'm not a great runner.

At least, that's what I'm learning with every book, article or tweet I read. More of this, less of this, NONE of that, and sleep more. Some coaches or authors will say that the more important thing is the diet. Others swear that running form is the magical key. Still more think it starts with some sort of inner peace, which, if that's the case, I'm in trouble.

But there are a few things I've read in recent months that have hit home a little more solidly, and I'm going to start trying to work with them. After all, if I'm giving this drive for Boston my focus for the next 90 days, it only makes sense to try anything to run smarter, longer, and faster, and I'm going to work them in that order. Smarter first. Then longer. Then faster.

I recently read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (yes, I'm a little late to the game). I loved just about everything I read in there, except that whole bit about not eating meat. Sorry, not gonna happen. But everything about the running itself really hit home, especially the four keys to running, brought to you by the Caballo Blanco:

"Think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you've got to go. When you've practiced that so long that you forget you're practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one - you get those three, and you'll be fast."

If you don't know who Caballo Blanco is, go read Born To Run. It's great. If you do know who he is, you know what he meant. You have to get things to move easily. If you force it, you'll burn out, or break something. You'll progress to a point and then hit the wall, get frustrated, and never return. Start with easy, because if that's all you get, it's not so bad.

Well, I've never been one to do things easy, but I'm trying. I ran fourteen miles today, and when I got my bad side cramps, I stopped and let them pass. Didn't push through and make it harder. Just waited for it to pass, and enjoyed the return to the ride. And I thought about two very important things that I have to work on physically to get to easy and light. Form and cadence.

Cadence I'll leave for Monday's post, when I've had a chance to work on it, as a fourteen miler is probably not the time to increase your steps, but it's a perfect time to work on form. As long as you can stay focused. I realized three truths during today's run:

1) I will never be a pacer. I don't understand how they do it. One second I'm running 7:45, then 8:30, then 6:55. Thank goodness I'm only working on easy.

2) The body is dumb. When you have too much water, you get a cramp. When you don't have enough water, you get a cramp. Thanks for clearing that up, nature. Honestly, though, the symptoms of hyponatremia (too little sodium in the blood, often due to overhydration) and dehydration are startlingly similar. If you wait for your body to tell you how to fuel and hydrate, you're probably already in the danger zone.

3) When I start to get tired or my mind starts to wander, I drift backward. Popular opinion these days holds that the midfoot strike is the best running form, contrary to what I had always believed. As a taller-than-average seventh-grader, I thought it was my long legs that were propelling me to the front of the pack, but it must have been something else. The farther you reach that foot, the harder you'll be on the heel, knee, and lower back. So I try to focus on keeping my weight propelled forward, and it feels so much better, but it is clearly not yet my natural form. So I'll keep working.

Little changes in my form make a big difference on the muscles I'm using, and therefore the energy I have. I'll keep my shoulders pushing forward and my feet landing in the middle.

And if that's all I've got, it's not so bad.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

National Running Day 2013

Nothing like a meaningless holiday to bring you back to something you love.
Our beloved country seems to be overrun with “National Something Day” announcements. I have to wonder just who decides these things, and why on Earth National Margarita Day doesn’t show up as a holiday on my Google calendar.
The vast majority of these days of honor seem to mean very little. It doesn’t seem important until you get a whole month devoted to something. Still, one that jumps out at me every year is National Running Day. Whether it’s the slight 10% discount on the $500 merchandise I can’t afford, or the log-your-miles-for-charity Twitter feeds exploding, I never seem to miss that day. Yesterday was no exception.
But I got to do something a little special in honor of the day. Instead of taking my usual lonely run around the neighborhood and calling that a celebration, I headed to Luke’s Locker in downtown Austin to join their Wednesday night social run. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but just hadn’t gotten around to yet. What better day, right?
So I parked about half a mile away and jogged up to try and look tough, as though showing up for a run in 96 degree heat wasn’t proof enough. I found a small group, 15 or so runners, ready to take on a nice easy 5K. Many seemed to know one another, which leaves me feeling like the odd man out for a while, but all were happy to engage in conversation, and one topic always pops up quickly: what’s your next race?
Well, I’ve recently made that decision, assuming I can complete the challenge I have set out for myself. With money tight and the heat rising, I need to make the smartest decisions I possibly can, in order to do the things I want to do. And there is one thing I want to do above most others at the moment: I want to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.
I can only begin to imagine the feeling that will surround that race. The camaraderie. The joyful defiance. And let’s not forget, the incredible names that will be in attendance. The list is only beginning to grow, but it seems like every big name in running will be a part of next year’s race. It’s our chance to show that we won’t be afraid, that we’re stronger than anyone imagines. It’s our chance to honor those who have gone before and pave the way for those who will come after. There’s nowhere else I want to be on that day.
Which means I have to qualify.
And to qualify, I have to run my time before the second week in September. Well, being a runner in the south, pickings are slim on local races in the summer months due to that whole collapse-and-die-in-the-heat thing that can happen. So I have to set my sights far away, both in time and place. I plan to qualify at the 2013 Bozeman (Montana) Marathon on September 8th. However, I need to make sure I start training now, heat be damned. And I have to prove to myself that I can be responsible enough to spend the money.
Beginning last Monday, I have started myself on a 97 day challenge. No alcohol, moderate caffeine, and a whole lot more water. I’m eating better (and more often), and I’m running more. And if I can make it 50 days into this challenge (completing at least 300 miles in those 50 days), I’ll register for the race and buy my plane ticket on July 22nd. Day 97, I qualify.
Now, to be fair, I’m only on day 4 and mile 6, but I’ve got a good feeling about this. I believe I can do it. I believe it was meant to happen this way. I’m going to keep going to the social runs as much as I can, and push my Sunday morning friends to show more often. I’m going to run Yasso 800s around my neighborhood and get as many miles out of a morning as my work schedule allows. I’m going to live every day like it was National Running Day, and hope that National Margarita Day doesn’t hit before day 97. But when I cross that finish line, my first drink is already decided.
Samuel Adams, Boston Lager.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pray For Boston

My God, what can I say?

In the midst of unthinkable tragedy, there is always personal pain. The mind strives to make sense of the senseless by making some sort of connection, but you only end up hurting more. We hug those we love a little tighter, treat those we meet a little kinder, and for a few hours, we try to throw as much positivity into the world as we can, as though it could ever make up for the devastation hanging in the air.

But today, it's even more personal for me, and for the millions of runners like me who have always taken solace in our steps. The Boston Marathon was attacked today. A celebration of strength, endurance, commitment and camaraderie, drowned in blood and smoke.

The thoughts that go through your head are endless, and as jumbled as the "news" coming out of the situation.

Why? As if the answer to that matters.

Do I know anyone in Boston? I've remembered a few, and all are safe and sound.


It's unbelievable. They attacked the spectators. They attacked hours after the winners had come through, when it was mostly older and charity runners crossing the finish line. What could they possibly have gained? What could they possibly have hated so much to do such an unthinkable thing?

And - perhaps above all - what if I had been two minutes faster in South Bend last year? I might have been in Boston today.

There is rage, and there is sadness. I want to believe that those involved will be brought to justice, but I don't care about that tonight. Tonight, I want to watch Twitter update and share in the sadness. I want to be heartened by the stories of those who helped, who sacrificed, who saved the lives of those who could not save themselves. Tonight, I want to see the spirit that I know belongs to every runner. My heart is broken, my faith in humanity once again shaken. Tonight, I need something to believe in.

It's hard to describe the feeling of family that comes with being a runner to someone who doesn't run. When you see the 26.2 sticker in the window of the car that just cut you off, you curse a little less violently. When you pass the guy in the bright orange shirt in the twilight of the morning, you nod to each other. And when you see a runner hurt, struggle, fail, you feel it, too. You want to help. Except for that top 0.5%, it's not about the competition. It's a community, and with every step, you connect more. When you hurt one of us, you hurt us all.

Tonight, we are devastated.

And tomorrow, I will run, in spite of those that would have the world burn. I'll sort through what I can with each step, and sweat out the rest. I haven't been running much of late. I haven't committed to it, and I've almost forgotten how important it was for me. I remembered today. And tomorrow, I will run.

Tonight, I will mourn.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fall and Spring

Today’s run was always going to be more difficult than yesterday’s.

It’s simply addition. Before today’s run, there was yesterday’s run. Before yesterday’s run, there was nothing. Sixteen miles over two days has a cumulative effect. Add to that a late shift last night and my second straight early morning rise, and I knew I’d be fighting a little bit. Yet still, the karmic whatevers in this world decided to make it a little bit harder.

A little tip for you: when trying to move around your house quietly in the morning so as not to wake your wife, houseguest and dogs, it is a good idea to move around in your socks until you absolutely have to put on shoes. It is a bad idea to do this down slippery stairs in complete darkness. Not only does it hurt when you fall, it also makes a whole lot of noise, thus negating the purpose for the socks in the first place. Whoops.

It didn’t hurt (much), so after apologizing to my now-awake bride and assuring her I was fine, I headed downstairs to put on my shoes. I checked the weather, seeing that the temperature was 51 degrees, a mere degree over my newly-established glove threshold. Touché, weather. What I failed to check was the wind, which I discovered, a bit too late, was somewhat stronger than yesterday. I also did not check the trend of the temperature, which had evidently not hit bottom yet. It was 48 when I finished. I may have to revise my thresholds. And yes, I know these are not cold temperatures, but they’re cold for Texas. Spring isn’t here yet. Or at least not before 6:00 in the morning.

With all this working against, me, it would have been easy – maybe even smarter – to pack it in. I thought about cutting mileage. I considered a change in outfit. I came within a few teeth-chattering moments of just heading back inside and diving into the pancakes I made yesterday.

And then I took another step. And another. I remembered the words from my daily inspirational running quote from Runner’s World: “Consistency requires discipline. Force yourself out the door.” – Bob and Shelly-Lynn Glover. For today, at least, I was able to remember the feeling of pride I get from finishing a run. I knew my body would warm up, and it did. I knew my legs would hold out, and they did. Another step. And another.

Even given all the downs, my time was only a minute off yesterday’s. I felt like I was working harder, but tried to keep myself to a sensible pace. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. Today, I learned about my resilience, and my ability to be stronger than my doubts.

And to wear shoes when walking down the stairs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dark, Cold and Perfect

Under 50 degrees, wear gloves.

It’s the first of many lessons I have to re-learn in the coming weeks. About five miles into my run this morning, I noticed the pain on the back of the hands. Nothing severe, and certainly nothing that would cause any long-term damage, but enough to be annoying, and enough to remind me that spring isn’t here yet. It’s close, but not yet.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about rededicating myself to the sport of running. I’ve written that so many times, I could probably copy and paste the whole thing. Suffice to say that I’m trying again, and with my 30th birthday a mere 249 days away, now’s the time to act. If there’s any chance of my qualifying for Boston before that day, the groundwork has to be laid right away. Now, my drive to qualify may be more financially prohibitive than physically so, but that’s no reason to give up. And even if I don’t do it by then, I’ve still got races to run.

For today, it wasn’t about qualifying. It wasn’t about a mileage total or a build-up. I’m not signed up for any races right now, and I haven’t published any new goals. Today, I simply wanted to go for a run.

It was dark and quiet when I left the house. Not cold enough for sleeves, but cold enough to create the rule I mentioned above. (I think 40 degrees will be my sleeve threshold.) I had my newest shoes on, which I don’t think I’ve taken over 5 miles before. I took a deep breath, started the watch, and headed off at an easy pace. I felt good, but I didn’t want to risk burnout. I haven’t run that much recently, and while I can usually tick off 8 miles without too much agony, I was not about to take unnecessary chances. It was way too early to call for a ride home if I was wrong.

At 2.5, I let myself engage a little. When I hit the downhill at 4, I allowed gravity to help, and with 2.5 to go, I pushed, ever so slightly. Nothing dramatic. Nothing amazing. Nowhere near my best time for the course, but solid.

And perfect.

My record-keeping has been shoddy at best the last few months, but that’s because I haven’t had much mileage to be proud of. I did a quick update of my spreadsheet and just sat staring at today’s number. It felt great. Every step felt right.

And tomorrow, I get to do it again.