Archive | April, 2009

Scorching sun, a phantom river and an old guy

28 Apr

Yesterday’s 5K was not as much fun as I’d hoped.

Let me explain why. First, I had to learn the hard way that running in 90-degree weather is not fun. In fact, I have to say that it would accurately be described as horrible. Yes, I know that the triathlon is in July and therefore I need to get used to the heat, but this was my first experience running in a temperature above 60 degrees and it was not pretty. There was no shade on this course at all and the race started at 1pm, so the full force of the sun was beating down on us. I spent a minute or two pondering the possibilities of spontaneous combustion, which oddly enough was a nice distraction. Thank goodness that nearly a dozen kind souls had set up sprinklers at the edge of their lawns for us runners to run through. One woman was even standing outside with a hose, and it felt like heaven. I said thank you to every single one of those people and might have even professed my undying love to a few of them.

Second, this is a run with the word “River” in its name, and a course description that says it is “run completely along the Connecticut River”. So I don’t think I was insane to have been envisioning myself sprinting along a path right next to the river. Right next to the river meaning a few yards away, where the view would be oh-so-pretty and perhaps a cool breeze might even lighten the burden of the race. But I just have a good imagination. This course could be considered “along” the river only if you were drunk, had no concept of distance, and are the type of person who constantly says “the other day” when you are referring to something that happened 20 years ago. For most of this course you cannot even see the river, and when you do it is easily seven football fields away and seems more like the mirage of a desperate crazy person than it does an actual body of water.

Third, besides finishing with a totally not impressive time of 37:48, I got my ass whooped by a 95-year-old man. I’d seen him before the race started and he was somewhere behind me the entire way, until the end. You see, this wonderful course ended in a steep hill, and this hill totally chewed me up and spit me out. Meanwhile, my elderly friend was gaining on me, and passed me towards the top. At this point I could barely breathe and felt like I was running sideways through quicksand while wearing footwear made of concrete, but still the thought in my head changed from “Just finish the race” to “You cannot let this old man beat you.” I tried to light a fire under my own ass but all I had left in me was a small flame, and he crossed the finish line an entire 9 seconds before me. I’m awed and super impressed by this guy, but….I ran a time a solid three minutes above what I was shooting for and got beat by a man nearly four times my age, so I have to say I spent the first few seconds after the race feeling a little lame. Then I realized the torture was over and finishing is always something to celebrate. My fourth 5k. Not too shabby. I don’t like to compare myself to anyone anyway!

But, as always happens post-race, the high wears off by the time I get home and I inevitably end up crashing like a limp ragdoll onto the couch/floor/bed. See, I’m always really good about making sure that I have some good pre-race food around to fuel me. Somehow, though, I always seem to forget about after the race, and end up lying around going, “Ehhhhhhh……I’m hungryyyyy…..and thirrrrrrrrsty……why don’t I have any fooooooodddd…. why doesn’t somebody bring me somethinggggg?!?!” until I realize that I live alone and no one is around to hear my calls of despair.

So on Sunday, after dragging myself off the couch and making myself a functional and productive human being again, I allowed myself back on the couch to relax later in the evening. After lying still for way too long, I turned onto my back and stretched out my cramped legs, only to hear a gross cracking noise in my left knee. Unfortunately this noise was accompanied by a minor but annoying amount of pain. My knee is still sore today, and if it’s not better by Wednesday I might be forced to head to the doctor for peace of mind. For now, besides the practical remedies of a little bit of rest, ice and Advil, I’m doing my best to will the pain away. Mind over matter. Because, seriously, how is it that I can run four 5Ks in a month and a half, be at the gym nearly every day, and then get injured lying on the couch?!

"Rolling hills" actually means "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

24 Apr

I finished another 5k on Saturday! Audrey, Lola and I ran this one–it was a gorgeous day: blue sky, sunny, warm.

The course, however, was not so fabulous. There were at least 3 HUGE hills (described as “rolling hills” in the course description, which was a big, fat, evil lie)- every time we turned a corner there was another one looming ahead. The second time we came to one I said “You’ve got to be kidding me.” out loud. The third time I just laughed. They weren’t just hills, they were small mountains, and they just kept on coming. Besides the fact that we had to deal with the mountainous hills, this was an open course. Completely open course. Meaning, as concerned as I was about making it up the hill, I was more concerned about not getting hit by one of the many cars driving towards me. At one point we were on a main route of the town, and my poor running skills were causing some poor soul in a Prius a delay in getting into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. I felt very badly that my slow pace as I trudged across the DD driveway was keeping someone from their coffee a few seconds longer. You never know what might happen when you come between a coffee freak and their morning cup; I know I might be tempted to hit a runner if one was keeping me from my coffee on a Saturday morning.

But at the same time as I felt bad for the residents of this poor town, I also thought it was totally crummy that I had to come between a stranger and their coffee in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, races should be run on a closed or at least partially-closed course. There’s enough to think about when running a race, I really don’t appreciate having to add “being struck by an automobile” to the list. Also as far as I’m concerned, races should not involve significant hills; even running downhill isn’t as easy as it seems, so let’s just keep them out of races altogether, shall we?

I blame the hills for my 34:38 time, but I know that without them I would have done even better, which is encouraging. Audrey came in right ahead of me and Lola right behind me. We totally kicked those hills’ asses while dodging traffic and keeping a good pace, but none of us will ever run this particular race again!

The Climb

14 Apr

My second 5K was on Saturday– I finished in 34:37, beating my first 5K time by 4.5 minutes. No wardrobe malfunctions, I wasn’t last, and despite being overcast, windy and cold, the rain held off until the afternoon. All in all, it was a good day.

In fact, it was a really good day. I know it’s a little cheesy, but since I don’t have an amusing tale of my athletic dysfunction to tell and I don’t mind being cheesy, I have to say that when I neared the end of the race and realized that I was going to finish somewhere around 34 minutes, I almost started to cry. This is mostly Miley Cyrus’ fault.

Before I explain about Miley, I have to explain that running is an emotional thing for me in general, for many reasons. It’s an amazing feeling to realize what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. Never has the expression “mind over matter” seemed more real to me. If you count yourself out, then guess what? You don’t stand much of a chance. But if you count yourself in, each and every day and no matter what, then you have a damn good shot at anything. I considered myself one of the most improbable runners imaginable- and to be honest I still do to some extent. But at the same time, I haven’t let the fact that I don’t feel like a runner get in the way of trying to become one. Every single finish line I cross is a huge victory, regardless of what my time is. Of course, I can’t lie– the faster the better. Running makes me emotional because for me running isn’t just running (although, I wonder if running is just running for anyone). It’s a transformation of myself into the me I want to be. Ok, that takes the “cheesiest statement ever” award, I know, but it’s true. Six months ago I was quite unhappy, lonely, bored, restless and oh yeah, 20 pounds heavier. Things weren’t exactly going my way, and I was focusing all my energy on that negativity without even entirely realizing it. Now I’ve taken that same energy and channeled it into something that makes me feel happy, excited and strong. Nothing around me changed– I changed. And that brings me to Miley.

When I first heard the song “The Climb”, I did not know who sang it, and to be honest was a little disappointed when I found out it was Miley Cyrus, cause I liked the song a lot- but Miley, not so much (it took lots of explanation for me to understand the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus thing and I haven’t gotten over it. Also, I still don’t get it). And here’s another instance where I’ve gravitated towards something meant for girls under the age of 16- what is wrong with me?! But ultimately I don’t care, because Miley’s song inspires me like none other. I think homegirl tapped into my brain to write these lyrics.

When she starts out singing “I can almost see it/That dream I am dreaming/But there’s a voice inside my head saying/ ‘You’ll never reach it’/Every step I’m taking/Every move I make feels/Lost with no direction/ My faith is shaking”, well, that was me a few months ago.

So imagine how emotional I get when, as I’m coming up to the finish line of Saturday’s race this very song starts playing on my iPod and my girl Miley is belting out “But I gotta keep trying/Gotta keep my head held high/ There’s always gonna be another mountain/ I’m always gonna wanna make it move/ Always gonna be a uphill battle/ Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/ Ain’t about how fast I get there/ Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/ It’s the climb /The struggles I’m facing/ The chances I’m taking/Sometimes might knock me down/But no, I’m not breaking/I may not know it/But these are the moments that/I’m gonna remember most, yeah/Just gotta keep going/And I, I got to be strong/Just keep pushing on.” I’m sure that my near tears status is easy to understand, no? Because, as much as I hate to admit that a Disney star has written a song that touches my soul, uh, well….she has. Listen to it. Miley is right. It’s what I’ve been saying all along, but in a top 40 hit kind of way. It’s not always going to be easy, I’m not always going to get what I want, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try my hardest and be strong every step of the way. Who knows what’s waiting for me once the triathlon is done- it doesn’t matter. What matters is the journey to get there.

Helmets. Ick.

14 Apr

I am getting ever so slightly concerned about the fact that I haven’t started biking or swimming yet. Bike’s still leaning against the kitchen table, swimsuit’s still sitting on top of my dresser. But in my own defense, I did attempt to look for a bike helmet on Friday. I wanted something plain, maybe black or silver- nothing crazy or fancy, nothing that made me look like Sonic the Hedgehog. I brought along my friends Callie and Wayne, because I knew I could not be left to my own devices when shopping for a helmet.

For starters, and this is something I’m quite honest about, I’m a huge goober. Serious dork. I knew helmet shopping would be funny, and if I was by myself I would be laughing at myself A LOT. Even if I was alone. So I’d rather have my friends laughing at me, too. Also, I needed someone there to remind me that a helmet wasn’t going to make me look beautiful or win me first place in a fashion show, that the helmet is solely for protection of the head- period, end of story.

So, with their help, I tried on every. single. helmet. In the whole entire store. And I swear to you, none of them fit right. Most of them sat on top of my head leaving so much of my skull exposed that it didn’t seem it could possibly be helpful should I take a tumble. Now, granted, none of us knew what we were looking for really, or how it was supposed to fit. But it just didn’t seem right. I was even starting to become open to the idea of a helmet that wasn’t plain and didn’t match my bike or my tri outfit. Anything to get the process over with. I was laughing so much that I was getting extraordinarily hot. Callie was plunking the helmets on my head and I was standing there like a child while she adjusted the straps to fit me. Wayne seized the moment to hit me upside the head- just to be sure the helmet was sufficiently sturdy, I’m sure.

Then, just as we were about to give up, I tried one on that seemed to fit. The best part was that the helmet was white with pink and purple butterflies in a kind of abstract way. Pretty but subtle enough. And it fit. Score! Despite the fact that I had no intentions of getting a girly helmet, the helmet had found me, and I couldn’t deny that we seemed meant to be.

So, helmet shopping complete, we continued to browse the store for workout gear and sports bras (yeah, Wayne must have been totally stoked about this shopping trip). Suddenly I looked down at the helmet box I was carrying, and one word stuck out at me. And that word was “Youth”. It was a youth helmet. As in, for youths. As in, a 26-year-old triathlete-in-training has no business wearing this kind of helmet. Shit. Now I feel stupid because a) it’s a freaking youth helmet with pink and purple butterflies and I’m kinda lame for liking it. Why don’t I just get a Hannah Montana helmet and call it a day? and b) I know now that there is no way this helmet fits me properly because I know I have a big head, and certainly not a youth helmet sized head by any means.

Knowing that there is no way on earth I can purchase this helmet (both for safety and ego reasons), we decided I should definitely go to a bike store and get someone to help me- someone who knows what they’re doing. I’ll still need the moral support, but at least there will be a qualified professional there to help me find the right helmet, and probably stare at me oddly while I laugh at myself. So I put the helmet back on the shelf and left without it, imagining the 9-year-old girl who will be wearing it someday as she pedals to her friend’s house to read Teen Beat magazine and gossip about boys.

Bye-bye Bubblemint

9 Apr

I have a race on Saturday, and it’s supposed to rain. While I don’t mind rain in general, and I know that April showers bring May flowers, I’m not too excited about the fact that April showers might also bring me a slower race time and maybe even a slippery surface-induced face plant. While (knock on wood) I have avoided athletic-related injuries thus far, it seems that I have incurred my first diet-related injury. Yeah, bet you didn’t even know that was possible.

Monday morning I woke up with what I thought was an earache. It hurt by my ear but also down into my jaw. It hurt to chew and was making me a little miserable. So, when I got to work yesterday morning with the “earache” still there, I called the doctor and made an appointment for late in the afternoon. In the meantime, I avoided chewing as much as possible (although a girl still has to eat lunch!) and contemplated the possible reasons for my pain. Ear infection? Maybe, I’m really prone to them, but this didn’t feel like any ear infection I’ve ever had. iPod ear bud-related injury? I don’t really listen to my music that loud when I’m running, but you never know. Sinus problems? Dental problems? I wasn’t sure, I just knew it was driving me crazy and I wanted it to go away.

And as it turns out, it was none of that. It’s an issue with my temporomandibular joint. I’m saying that first so it sounds fancy and I feel less like a goober. Because essentially what it translates to is pain in my jaw. And this pain in my jaw is due to chewing too much gum.

I’m not joking. And I have to be honest, I didn’t really know this was possible. I have been chewing A LOT of gum lately; it’s my #1 defense against snack attacks. I never imagined that I was doing myself harm and inducing an injury. Now that I know this, I’m pretty sure gum should come with a warning label: “Dieters beware! Chewing in excess may cause temporary temporomandibular joint pain and unnecessary doctors visits.”

To top it off, gum is now haunting me. Right after the doctor I went to the drugstore to get Aleve. While ringing up my items (I swear, I couldn’t even make this up) the woman looked at me and said “Can I interest you in some new flavors of gum?”. Since when did the people at Walgreens recommend you anything?! I think this was some kind of cosmic joke, which continued at
WW when the girl next to me turned to me and said “Want a piece of gum?” and when I got home and a friend texted me and said “I’m watching The Biggest Loser and it’s making crave Extra gum and Cheerios.” I had to laugh every time.

Then of course, since I had to leave work early yesterday and many of my co-workers knew about my “ear” pain, I had to explain a few times today that it was not my ear, and that I am indeed the biggest weirdo on the planet because I incurred my injury from a piece of Orbit Bubblemint. Or actually, a few too many pieces of Orbit Bubblemint.

And now, I have to be gum-free for the next 7-10 days and chew sparingly in the future. I am sad about the temporary loss of my boredom-busting, snack-stopping, perfectly-flavored friend. Bubblemint, the pain was worth it. And I will miss you dearly.

Running Away

6 Apr

It’s Sunday night around 8pm, and that means my last weekend to relax during the month of April is drawing to a close. I have a 5k each of the next 3 weekends. I do not know for sure what I was thinking, but I’ll tell you that these things always seem like much better ideas the farther away they are, and therefore seem like the worst idea anyone’s ever had, ever, once I’m 5 minutes into a race.

I think, to be honest, the busier I am with this training stuff, the more I forget about, well, everything else. And that is exactly how I like it. While my motivation hasn’t slowed a single bit, I’ve kind of been feeling like I lost that intense drive and focus I had for weeks. While that might be kind of a good thing (that level of intensity was leaving me bone tired, sleep deprived and unable to lose a single ounce), I’d like to get some of it back. I found myself headed to the gym on Wednesday night at 9:00, not because I physically felt like I needed to go, but because mentally I felt like I needed to go. I made a joke this week to one of my friends about running from my problems (haha, get it?), but sometimes I think it’s more true than I’d like to admit- I need to be moving, just so there’s no time to stop and think.

But to be honest, I think it’s a sensational solution to escape what’s bugging me. These first 4 months of 2009 have been leaps and bounds better than the last 4 months of 2008, so I’d like to think I’m on the right track (get it, track? leaps and bounds? gee, I’m so witty today, and I swear I didn’t do it on purpose). And I know that I have lots of other things to focus on- hello, bicycle that’s still leaning against my kitchen table and new training bathing suit with the tags still on- and that should be sufficient enough to get me going in high gear again. Sometimes I know I’m too hard on myself. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. But there is no time when I have been able to figure out how not to be.