Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why, and how, I started running

I think a person's motivations are very important. My motivations for running have changed over the years, but the first motivations were basically to get in shape.

I had a moment, back in 2010, Where I found myself looking for ways to pay for medical school. I came across a military-based scholarship program, and even a military medical school. The more I researched it, the more I felt like this looks like it would fit me well.

The only thing I needed to do, really, was volunteer a whole lot more and get fit and get strong. This is the part that posed a problem for me. You see, growing up, in elementary school there were bi-annual timed mile tests, sit-ups, curl-ups and sit-n-reach. The only thing I could do was sit-n-reach. I could not run to save myself. I was an overweight kid.

At the time, I didn't know that running was the sort of thing that a person could learn to do. I thought it was either you can or you can't and if you can't, you get to suffer through the mile test time after time. That is what I did. Fast forward to high school and the test now becomes a test to see how many laps you can run in 20 minutes. I could do thirteen; I couldn't run them. It was embarrasing. I got A's in PE because I always participated but that was because I had to make up for the complete lack of fitness somehow (13 laps was a 'C' grade, 22 was an 'A+'--That's on a 10th-mile track). I even had PE teachers tell me that I have to run the whole time. "Keep running!", they said. "I can't".

What they never did say was, "Just slow down and run a slower pace", "Alternate 2 minutes running with 3 minutes walking, next week we'll increase to 3 minutes running and 2 walking". I was never taught how to run, I was just expected to know. Would you be expected to pass an exam on the neurosystem without studying? No. Why would you in running?

Let us flashforward to my freshman year of college, 2008. This is the year I hit my highest weight. This school year is also the year that I started to establish better eating habits. I walked everywhere (miles a day). I walked up flights of stairs (I lived on the seventh floor). By the end of the first semester, I had lost 20 lbs without realizing it.

Let's move forward again. By the start of my junior year, I was biking everywhere. I had lost even more weight, not really intentionally, it was just a by-product of my healthier choices and increased activity. I was no where near fit, but I had laid the foundations to actively seek out becoming a fitter person. I made all my own food because I was cheap, I biked because it took too long to walk to work or school from my apartment, and I drank only water because anything else made my tummy upset.

And so it was that I began to think about my applications to medical school and ultimately how to start running. I didn't use couch-to-5k as so many people I know did; I used the Navy's guidelines for learning to run. It went from speedwalking 2 miles to speedwalking 3, then run 1 minute/walk 4 for 25 minutes, 2 min run/3 min walk, 3/2, 4/1, and ultimately running 2 miles without stopping. I did these things three times a week and elliptical on the other days. I even convinced one of my swimmer friends to re-teach me some basic swim strokes and I improved my backstroke enough to use it to work out. I loved the pool at my school's rec center. Honestly, I was spoiled with the olympic-size and depth pool. I didn't know I had it so good there!

As the end of my junior year came, I could run on the indoor track 2 miles at a time. I had lost even more weight. I was feeling really excellent about myself and these accomplishments. I had even gotten a new bicyle that year as a birthday present (which I absolutely love. It is a Giant Avail 3, an entry-level road bike), so I was even learning how to go pretty far cycling. It was easier to do outside than running was to do outside. The oppressive heat and humidity of summer in New Orleans is very difficult to get used to after running inside an air-conditioned gym. I knew I had to get outside though. So I went back to alternating my run/walks, working up to running two miles again. My friend asked me if I wanted to do an imprompteu 5K with her (free) and so I said "that would be really difficult because I can hardly run outside". We still did it and I think I finished in about 45 minutes because I had to walk so much. This was also the first time I had really run in Audubon Park (I lived in New Orleans). It was exciting and empowering. I kept running outside. I got better. I got to three miles without walking. Then somewhere down the line my same friend asked if I wanted to do the Jazz Half Marathon with her. At first I said "no, I can hardly run 3" but she said, "it's ok, you have time to train for it. There's a method" and so I agreed.

I completed most of the training for that race. I ran the race in just under three hours. I was slow, but I did it. I felt amazing and tired and amazing after finishing that first half. There's nothing in the world like having your hard work realized. Nothing.I signed up for another race the for the next spring, the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll marathon. I actually was registed for the marathon because there really wasn't a price difference and I thought "what the hell, I might as well let myself have the chance"--HAH. Anyway, I got faster and more consistant when training for that race, at least after I got back from winter break at home. I hardly did anything at home that year. Thankfully it wasn't back to the drawing board with my training. On this half, I shaved over 20 minutes off my first time. That was really out-of-this-world to me.

It's crazy what you can do when you just know what's possible.
That's why, when people say, "Oh wow you did a half marathon! I could never do that!", I shake my head and say "but I did".
If I can do it, anyone else can, I'm sure.

They just need to know that it's possible.

My motivations now have changed and now I run more to show myself that I'm in control of my life, that I can do whatever the hell I am persistant enough to pursue. I challenge myself on purpose in order to grow.

I amaze myself that I will actively seek out a challenge instead of slinking back and saying "I can't do it". "I can't do it" is the lie I learned was a lie by learning to run. I now think "how would I accomplish that?" instead of "I could never".

And it's amazing.
That's how I learned to run.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

F^3 Lake Half Marathon Race Recap

And so it begins. I woke up a few hours before the race. I ate my oats-in-a-jar. I prepared my gear bag (no easy feat! winter coats do not fit in small bags!).

I took the el from my friend's apartment where I had stayed the night. The walk to Montrose Harbor was about a mile from the station. I kept seeing other runners who were warming up or getting to the race. There were also many runners staying warm in their cars.

At the start line, I overheard that 1800 people registered and only about 1300 people picked up their bibs. I guess the winter training isn't for everyone? And there were quite a few people around me in vibram five fingers and all I could think is that if I, wearing socks and shoes, cannot feel my toes, how can you? I checked multiple times to make sure my socks weren't wet because my toes were so cold I couldn't feel them. All that just from standing around waiting for the race to start.
First mile. The runners spread out quickly.
We started at 10:00 and the runners thinned out fairly quickly, despite it being such a narrow path.

I found myself running on a weird snow/sand mix that covered the path. Not having trained on that at all, it was confusing and difficult. My shoes didn't have enough traction despite being my trail shoes. I can't imagine how much slower I would have been if I wore my normal kicks.
Weird mysterious snow stuff
At around mile 2/3 the path continued to be snowy, and a little hilly.

I started feeling a bit of knee pain in mile three and I had to ask myself...If I take an ibuprofen will I be able to continue? If I finish the first out-and-back will I be able to finish the second? I decided to take the ibuprofen and a gu, then I decided to do the second out-and-back. I didn't want to give up.

Mile 4(ish)
I had the sun on my face from mile 3 to 8, and I managed to get sunburnt. Whoops.
I gotta say, I was mostly bored during this race because the field thinned out so much. There was only a few people that I kept playing leap-frog with because we were run/walking. Because of my knee pain, I decided to walk a minute every mile, or less as needed. I couldn't have finished if I didn't walk as frequently as I did.

Mile 5 (ish)
I continued on by my lonesome self... It was around mile 5 that I kept seeing the leaders on their way in. They were so fast.
These aren't the leaders but they are about 3 miles ahead of me.
I kept calculating how far ahead the people passing me were. I was getting pretty bored and distracted by my tired legs. In training, I only really made it to 8 miles for a long run. I was seriously undertrained for this race.
I kept watching dogs and their owners play on the icy beach. So cute! The water is deeper here, where they have open water swim in the summer. I wouldn't want to go in the water now. COLD.

At the turnaround at mile 8, there was a woman who looked like she got her hand clipped by a bicyclist. She was bleeding a lot. An ambulance was on its way for her.  The course wasn't closed off, so there were still bicyclists. I almost got clipped myself. Seriously, if you ride your bike around runners, please be vocal. I do my best to listen for bikes but sometimes it doesn't work.

Finally on my way back in.

On my way back in after the turn around--all those other runners ahead of me; all the beautiful water to my right. No more sun on my face (it was much chillier after there was no more sun on my face, but at least I wasn't getting sunburnt anymore).

Around mile 9 there was some really neat ice in the water.
It was here I had my last gu (I tried for one every three miles or so. I was tired and I do believe in adequately fueling myself during a race. 100 calories every few miles usually does it for me). I kept counting down the distance to the end.
I made it to ten miles and just kept saying, only 5K to go! You can do a 5k!

During this last 5K, I had to walk more frequently. I wasn't upset by this, I was just annoyed that the race wouldn't be over as soon.
You know how if you're in class or something and you keep looking at the clock thinking 10 minutes has passed and only 1 has? That was how I was feeling.
Around mile ten. 5K left!
I finally made it to the end. Somebody saw me trying to take a picture of myself and said "oh, no no no!" and offered to take the picture for me. Also the bags you can see behind me are all filled with bagels :) .

So there you have, folks. Half marathon number three. Not a PR, but not slower than my first half marathon! Also my hair looks fantastic for just having run for 2 hours and 50 minutes. Haha.
My race medal is a cowbell. This is mostly why I didn't want to give up. I wanted that damn cowbell (cause I got a fever)(and the only cure is more cowbell).
Official time was 2:50:50.

Edit: The official race photos are here.

My here-I-am-at-blogspot first post

And so it begins...
I've had a blog for about a year and half, just not this blog. I decided that when I was browsing my tags, that if my blog was made up exclusively of what I put in the "running" tag, it would actually be a pretty quality blog. I mean quality as in quality vs. quantity. This blog, recently created, is going to be a place for me to publish my more reflective posts. I have a tendancy to liveblog everything on my other blog. My plan is to publish my race recaps, training journal, reflections, that sort of thing on this blogspot.
This is my first post but I will have back-dated race recaps/reflections for thouroughness in documentation of my running journey.
A little about me? ok. I'm 23, I live in the suburbs of Chicago, I work there too, I prefer vanilla to chocolate, my favorite candy is M&Ms, I walk through my favorite shoes, I love to ride my bike, I went to school in New Orleans, I don't do well in cold, I still train and run in cold, I'm studying for the MCAT, I intend to go to medical school, I'm average height, I have a cat, I'm vegetarian.