Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ouch!

I missed my first GTS (General Training Session) since Labor Day. Last night while walking upstairs, I managed to twist my right knee somehow. It was already a little sore this week and I've been fighting off a cold or sinus infection, so maybe the low resistance was a variable. I don't know, but now I can't put any pressure on my right knee - which is inconvenient, annoying, and painful (especially when you live in a house with three sets of stairs).

I'm sitting here with ice on my knee (for the second time this morning). I had a horrid night's sleep because each time I turned, I woke up because my knee hurt. Not good.

So I'm running in my head ... and while reading emails this morning, I came across this link that was passed along by a fellow TNT member. It's a movie trailer for "The Spirit of the Marathon". This will give you some sense of my thoughts this morning!

I love the part where one of the runners says, "I'm going to be running for 4 plus hours, I must be insane". For me, I'm going to be running for 6 plus hours, I must be beyond insane. I also like the runner's comment about "the runner's high". He says he only experiences it when he stops running! HA!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More is not always better! - Part 2

Well, it's true, "more is not always better". Running 20 miles is definitely more difficult than running 18. My friend Russ pointed out today that it's the more difficult runs that end up being the most effective, because you know that you did it - as bad as the weather was (e.g. - the Thanksgiving half marathon in the rain) or as bad as you felt (e.g. - my first 12 and 14 mile runs) - you made it. I've heard repeatedly that "if it were easy", everyone would be doing it.

I felt surprisingly good after the 18, with the slight exception of the vice grips on the top of my feet, which after 20, I now believe the hypothesis of the shoe laces being too tight was correct.

Let me back up just a bit. I wasn't nervous about the 20 at all - too many other things to think about and do. And, as I wrote earlier, I was definitely on an emotional roller coaster which was a great way to be preoccupied, so the anxiety about 20 didn't hit until Friday night - as I was trying desperately to find my running clothes, prepare my 3 AM snack "banana, sports drink, and a bagel", and load some new tunes on the ipod.

The temperature was in the mid to high 40's when we started Saturday morning, high humidity, and about 15mph winds. We were running in my neighborhood, so the probability of getting lost was pretty low (not entirely improbable, just low). I arrived on time, but things were just a bit off. I forgot my cell phone at home, I didn't have the timer on my watch pre-set... overall, I was just slightly left of center (or right, I can never remember).

When we started off, I was trying to set my watch and fell just a bit more behind. As usual, the first 20 minutes or so were brutal - but I had to sprint to loosen up my leg muscles - so I thought my energy level was good.

For the first 6 miles, I played tag with a fellow runner. We took turns passing each other every few minutes which definitely helped keep us on pace and made the time pass quickly. I was running a bit ahead of schedule even. Somewhere around mile 8 and the beginning of the "4 miles of hills", I felt exuberant. By mile 10 (halfway through the hills of hell), I was slightly less confident. By mile 12, I was losing momentum fast, but I still hadn't gotten lost (and even successfully fought the temptation to run the half mile to my house and quit).

I regained composure and focus around mile 14 - which was largely down hill. I pulled into mile 16 pretty strong and not quite to the "bite me" phase, although I felt it's seductive pull. By mile 18, I just wanted it all to be over and by mile 19, the lovely water stop person actually met me a few paces before the water stop. I think she saw my focused gaze, or glaze as the case might have been, and came to see if I was ok. I remember her saying, "I'm your last water stop, you're almost there, are you ok?" I don't know what I said in return. I just know that I had one last hill and I wanted it to be over.

So I went as quickly as I could up that one last hill - and when I saw Chuck standing there with a camera, before I crossed the street back to the parking lot. I even managed to sprint to the finish!

And then the soreness came.

My left foot, the back of my right knee, and my shoulders - and it felt difficult to breathe. I remember eating some banana bread and drinking some sports drink. Doug and Dominic were there to great me again and I remember driving home (no tears, no traffic violations, but it's definitely a fog). I also remember telling two of the walkers about the fabulous benefits of the ice bath.

Speaking of which, I definitely needed the ice bath, it hurt worse than I remembered it hurting in the past, but I managed to stay in for 10 minutes (largely because I couldn't move).

I remember eating a hamburger and laying on the sofa for the remainder of the afternoon. Doug and Dominic went outside for a bike ride around the neighborhood (it's roughly a 1 mile loop). They must have done at least a hundred loops, because when they returned about 30 minutes later, Doug had to take a nap. I think it was mostly a sympathetic nap, because he knew how exhausted I was. Either that, or he's really a social sleeper.

Dominic, on the other hand, was quite energetic. He crashed the fire trucks and every other vehicle he owns into eachother for hours. After the mass vehicular homicide, he switched gears and woke Doug up to help him with his play, "Mary and Joseph in the Stable". He cast theatric newcomers, Noah and Mrs. Noah (does anyone know if Noah's wife has a first name?) in the lead parts of Mary and Joseph. Although Noah seemed to take immediately to the stage, Mrs. Noah was a little more, um, well, let's just say, she turned out to be a little more high maintenance than anticipated. She kept calling the Stable "a box" and saying it was "too cramped". Then there was the whole bit about "why she couldn't go back to the Ark, where the accommodations were more to her liking ... there was the 46 inch 1080P plasma TV and the soft leather chairs, and lobster and filet mignon ... you get the idea.

And, don't get me started about the crocodiles ... apparently they kept wanting to eat the other animals in the cast (the pandas, and the giraffes, and especially the parrots). The lions were pretty safe, but the hippos were viable crocodile food as well. The crocs were just plain trouble with a capital "T". I'm fairly certain this is what sent Mrs. Noah over the edge. By the time she stormed off the set, Dominic was in fits of laughter (although I was still safely nestled in the bosom of the sofa, and half asleep, I believe Dominic was giving the stage direction to the crocodiles).

Anyway, after the theatrical induced hilarity subsided to a low rumble, we ordered pizza. After that, I called it a night (I believe it was about 8:13pm).

I felt a little soreness Sunday morning, which gradually lessoned as the day progressed. I had a 6oz steak, eggs, grits, and two biscuits for brunch (ala The Flying Biscuit Cafe) and made certain to mention to the server that I had run 20 miles on Saturday. (Somehow, I convinced myself that I needed to explain why I had ordered such a large meal ... which, by the way, I managed to devour every last morsel, plus an extra half of a biscuit).

When we got home, I was able to make a brief walk around the neighborhood with Doug and Dominic to deliver Christmas cookies to the neighbors. By the time we made a quick circle and got to our almost next to last stop, the Walkers, we went inside their house to warm up a bit and chat. I was completely done by the time we left - I didn't want to leave, I just wanted to sit down again and not have to get up!!!!

So here I sit, still trying to wrap my mind around my accomplishment and not try to think too much about the upcoming challenge ... 26.2 in 3 weeks.

Maybe another glass of wine will help!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friends

Let's compare friendships to my training runs. I'm not certain that I can call them a microcosm at this point, but they definitely have similarities.

Last week was quite the emotional one - at many levels. (I have definitely had friendships that were "quite emotional"). Although the 18 mile run was not as physically draining as it could have been, there was certainly an emotional aspect. I keep hearing veteran marathoners say that the majority of a marathon is "mental". Now, whether that means that you have to be mental to do it is wide open for quite a variety of interpretations.

On Tuesday last week, I was still elated with my accomplishment, but late that day, I boarded the emotional roller coaster. I cried, I lost sleep, I woke up early Wednesday and ran 6 miles. I still felt drained, everything was just a bit off. Later that morning, I received my first deep tissue massage in about 7 years. I think the word "massage" should be omitted here.

The therapist was fabulous and well trained. However, I learned that there are a few places on my body that don't get stretched nearly enough (primarily in my shoulders - which carry tension - HA! and where my minor and major glut muscles meet - let's not go there). For someone who has an extraordinary high pain threshold, I can honestly say that the pain brought tears to my eyes and still being on the emotional roller coaster, I let the flood gates open. Later, mentor Page, told me that those massages (let's call it deep tissue stimulation - massage evokes too much of a spa relaxation event) should be treated like one would go through the birthing process. You need to put yourself in a happy place outside your body to focus on and take deep cleansing breaths. Now I know.

I had to drink a ton of water, soak in epsom salts, and take ibuprofen to be even semi-mobile. Physically, I felt worse after the deep tissue, um, stimulation than I did after the 18 mile run. Seriously.

But the pain eventually subsided to a dull ache (as opposed to gut-wrenching-eye-watering-I-can't-bear-the-touch-of-a-feather pain). I moved on. But my emotional and physical resources were still depleted.

By Saturday morning, I still ached, but with the help of Chuck and Page, I managed to run the fasted 8 miles I've ever had (1 hr 41 minutes). They kept it interesting, dodged traffic with me, challenged me, and of course made me laugh. Chuck, at one point, held on to my arm and "pulled" me up the last few paces of a hill (thanks Chuck!!!). Page challenged us to sprint to a light pole (I won't say who won that one!!!). The first 20 minutes or so of the run were painful (in the places that were sore from the deep tissue event). But after that, it didn't really matter. I put myself in happy place and stayed there.

My sincere thanks to Chuck and Page for staying with me and taking walk breaks (and also for making me stop walking and RUN)!

As for friends and friendships ... there are good times and not so good times. Sometimes you have to ask people for directions. Sometimes when you get directions from someone, you still grab the map out of their hand. Sometimes, you have to learn to trust the person holding the map. Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot (i.e. - when you're holding the map and someone asks you for directions). That's when you have to learn to trust your instincts (a la Polar Express girl).

But like training for endurance events, friendships are tremendously rewarding. They give you strength, they give you perspective, they give you humility, they provide laughter, they challenge you, they can make you cry but they can also bring you peace.

So to my friends and family (both new and not so new), I thank you - I thank you for listening while I regale you with my running stories. I thank you for meeting me for coffee. I thank you inviting me to do things with you (even though you know I'm going to talk about running or legos or Dominic). I thank you for helping me with fund raising, for sending me earrings, for meeting for lunch or dinner, for letting me cry in front of you, for providing words of encouragement - even if they are from an easy chair and your feet are propped up, for all of the helpful tips, funny stories, and empathy, for your prayers, for reading my blog, and for your concern not only for my welfare but for the well being of Laura, the friend in whose honor I have inspired to attempt this test of endurance.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I really hate to tell you this, but ...

Before I finish that sentence, let me cut to the chase (for those that are a bit short on time) ... ok, "chase" might be a bit of a stretch.

I completed the 18 ... energy wise, I felt "FINE" - "JUST FINE" ... seriously, though - I still felt like there was some "umph" left in me - with the ever so small exception of my feet - which felt like vice grips were attached to them with each step I took.

Now for the full story. Skip to the very last paragraph if you have to run. It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day here in the metro Atlanta area - 70's, sunny, clear, slight wind from the northwest (just to keep us humble). I even arrived to the group meeting point AHEAD of schedule (about 5 minutes early ... something just slightly short of a miracle). It was going to be a great day!

I signed in, did my warm up lap, stretched, chatted with the coaches and mentor Page (who was ONLY doing 12) and grabbed my 18 mile map, replete with visual and written instructions.

After the stretches, Assistant Coach Yo gave me a salt packet (small paper package ... think the little red and white condiment you receive in the plastic wrapped pre-packaged silverware, napkin, salt/pepper combo). She said, "Take it now before you start, then take another one about halfway through." I did, because I have been following instructions like a good girl but ... (I laughed while I "did the shot of salt" and thought to myself - "Without the tequila? Are they just insane? How could they? It's an abomination!"

We received a few words of encouragement, remained silent for the first mile (out of respect for our honored heroes) and off we went.

At the first water stop (roughly mile 1), I chatted with Page briefly, still laughing over last week's antics (she's still speaking to me even though I wrote about her in my blog) and so it goes. She and I followed the same instructions until about mile 4, - which is about the time I realized that the print on my map was about a 7pt font (and hers was about a 10pt font). A slight amount of panic set in (the written instructions took up 3/4's of my map page (in the EXTREMELY small print). Foreboding engulfed me. I tried to shake it off.

Page and I parted ways at W. Conway (she went left, I went right) ... and that's the beginning of my unsanctioned tour of Buckhead. I followed the written instructions - or so I thought, but apparently ended up running an extra mile or so around the horse park (which coincidentally is where I got lost the first time we were in the area). It must mean something.

To continue, and I did ... at some point, one of the 18 mile runners had turned back because she was sick, and passed me at a cross street. She said, "I think you're supposed to go left" ... to which I said, "but the instructions say right". She wasn't feeling well so I thought maybe she was disoriented.

Sigh.

So on I went ... and when I got to the next water stop (even further behind the pack than I already was), I was in a state of frustration and said "I hate this course" - which I sincerely did at that point ... who in their right mind would map out an 18 mile course that has 40 instructions? Sure, they are trying to keep it interesting, but I'm still bitter.

By mile 9, and a dozen streets later, I was still feeling frustrated, which was probably a good thing and still venting to the poor helpful souls at the water stops.

Physically, I felt fine - mentally, I was steaming.

Around mile 12 or so, at a water stop, I re-laced my shoes, as they were feeling a bit loose and starting to rub on my heals. Did I mention that I was still frustrated? I kept looking at the map and instructions - thinking, "Dear God, please help me get through this - I have no idea where I am!"

By the time I got to mile 15 or 16 - my feet started to hurt (I mean REALLY hurt) - like the kind of pain that makes your eyes water ... and I was frustrated (I may have mentioned that). I had been running for 4 hours - 240 minutes ... and I just wanted to stop reading the map. My shoulders were tense, I was trying to dodge hummers, large luxury vehicles, and landscaping trucks driving at recklessly high speeds around blind corners. I kept hearing trains in the distance which for the most part kept me alert (because I imagined that my dad - who was a railroad engineer until he died, was sending me signals somehow).

As I passed the last bend between Lake Forrest and Powers Ferry (by Chastain Park), I turned onto Pineland (I gave up on the map) ... because I wasn't going to run around Chastain Park for a second time. About a third of the way down Pineland, the sweep car pulls along side me and the helpful TNT girl driving says, "I really hate to tell you this, but you turned a street too early."

I glared, and said in a demon inspired tone, "At this point, I really don't care." She said, but do you know how to get back to the church parking lot from here?" I said, (again using harsh tones) "Yes, I do" She continued, "But will you be able to get to the last water stop at King and Northside?" I was almost in tears at this point - because she was driving the car as I was running and it was difficult not to say - please just let me get in and drive me back. So I said with gritted teeth, "Yes, I will". That's when she said, "I'll just drive up here a bit to make sure."

I groaned.

As I crested the hill, I saw her car waiting for me at the water stop. I stopped running and walked to the last stop, belligerent and frustrated to the core. By the time I got there, the sweep car had "sped" away. No doubt, she sensed my frustration and wanted to avoid a scene. :-)

So naturally, I vented again to the poor girl who volunteered for that waterstop. I was beyond frustrated by this point (could you tell?) - the vice grips on my feet were getting tighter by the second and my shoulders had turned into stone. Energy wise I felt good - probably fueled by rage - but still it was good - I wasn't ready to fall over or anything.

I managed somehow to find my way back to the church parking lot (which was our starting point) - thank you for your thoughts and prayers on that one! I had to walk the last mile because I couldn't find a comfortable pace if I ran. I honestly have no idea how far I ran (somewhere between 18 and 19 miles I would guess). It took me somewhere in the vicinity of 4 and a half hours - but who knows how long it really took, because there was a lot of venting at water stops (during which I stopped, stretched, tried to regroup), a lot of stopping at intersections to read the map and a lot of diving into bushes in attempts to avoid being run over by high speed oncoming traffic (and I'm not going to even mention the hills ... that was insane).

But I finished (without tears), wrote down my time (including the stops), drove home without a traffic violation, took an ice bath, hydrated, stretched, put my feet up for awhile, and then went to a party that night. (Feet recovered enough to just a mild aching pain).

I'm ready for the 20.

Bring it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

It didn't happen ... running 16 miles on Saturday, that is. I only ran eight miles ... ONLY 8. Apparently, the powers that be decided that 16 was not needed after all, since we slogged our way through the rains on Thanksgiving.

Think Hallelujah Chorus!

Thanks to those who sent me positive energy and prayers on Saturday morning. They definitely worked!!!!

I had talked briefly to my mentor on Friday morning and knew that instead of 16, I was probably only going to do 12. I was prepared. However ...

I was a tad late arriving at the GTS ... (read in, people were starting to run as I turned pulled the car into the parking lot. ) I didn't know where I was going and got lost ... but we already know that's a common theme with me.

Mentor Page, waited for me to check in and said, "So are we going to do 12?" I paused, ever so briefly, and said, "Uh ...", about that time Page, said, "OK, how about 8?".

Again, think Hallelujah Chorus!

Until we got to about mile 6.

Things were going well. Page had me laughing most of the way - about mile 1, as we passed dear Margaret and Yo along the way, she (Page) casually tossed her vest to Margaret. To which Margaret replied, "What do you want me to do with this?". As we jogged a little further ahead, Page yelled back, "I'll pick it up later, thanks!" I chimed in with "Margaret, I didn't realize you were Page's valet!" You had to be there, it was funny. There was a bit more friendly banter, but I have to G rate this version of the story.

So onward we went, got a bit turned around on this course - as the majority of the streets were a variation of either Club or Brookhaven (e.g. Club, W. Club, E. Club, Brookhaven, W. Brookhaven, E. Brookhaven - you get the idea) ... and it didn't help much that some of the streets didn't have street signs ... but who's complaining? It was a delightful morning (about 38 degrees and clear).

Maybe because we were running a bit slow and boredom set in, or maybe Page just got a wild hair ... but around mile six, Page said, "OK, Lisa, let's see what you've got - let's sprint to the light post." So I sprinted. Then seconds later, she said, "Let's sprint to the stop sign." So I sprinted. Then she said, "OK, let's sprint to the next stop sign." That's when I said - no, gasped, "But Page I don't see the next stop sign." She said, "I'm sure there's one up there some where." So I sprinted. As we passed a couple walking their dog, I shouted to them, "If you guys see me passed out up ahead, please call 911." The woman yelled that she had a phone so all was good.

As we rounded the next corner, I saw the mythical "stop sign" and had to laugh. It was good to be challenged. We made a quick bathroom break at a Dunkin Donut and Page wouldn't let me get a donut to go (I even argued for a donut hole ... but the answer was still "absolutely not") ... and the fact that I only had my charm to pay.

So about the time, we got to the last water stop (and just short of a mile to go) ... it was all UP HILL. That's when the music in my head changed stations ... think Under Pressure - David Bowie Page wanted me to sprint up the hill. Yes, I said, "UP" the hill. I said, "Page, I'm not going to write nice things about you in my blog." She said, "I don't care." I laughed. She said, "Lisa, dig deep, reach in." I said, "Page, I dug deep about 1.5 miles ago ... I'm done." She laughed.

I said, "Page, I can't feel my toes any more ... " She said, "Think of what your friend is going through, think of the little children that are battling cancer ... they don't have a choice, they have to keep going." I kept going ... albeit not quickly, I kept going.

We breached the summit, I had no idea how much farther we had to go, but I knew the end was in sight. Page stayed a few paces ahead and got to the last intersection. She yelled, "Hurry, we need to make this light ..." the TNT members behind us, "rapidly" approaching, yelled, "wait until the light changes, don't get killed ..." which I heard off in the distance, as Page was dragging me across Peachtree Road (arms flailing ... I wish I had a video).

I was still laughing.

When we got back to the The Big Peach Running Co. (yes, it's a running store in Georgia, what else would it be called?), I was recounting our journey to Margaret, Yo, and Chuck ... when Page jokingly called out, "Lisa, did you sign me back in?" I said, "I'm not Margaret!!!!" Really, it was funny. Margaret and Yo told me that they are the ones that usually "challenge" Page. I said, "Thanks, now she's finally found someone she can "challenge"!" All good.

It was good to be challenged (have I officially used that word enough yet?). So now when I do the 18 miles next Saturday (Dec 9) ... with no chance of a last minute reprieve, I will have Page's voice in my head (and probably at the end, the Hallelujah Chorus!)

P.S. - We were honored to attend a goose bump delivering performance of the Hallelujah Chorus at our church this morning. Amazing.