Monday, February 25, 2013

snow puppies

So, nobody blow my cover with the poet, but I'm actually thrilled that we live somewhere that gets regular and (what I would consider) significant snow.  Or maybe just significantly more snow than we got in DC, "snowmageddon" events aside.
The night that we moved in, it was snowing.  Not heavily, and it only left a dusting on the ground, but snowing indeed.  Since then, we've had a couple of days where we've gotten an inch or two of snow, and this weekend we got a nice dump of it.
We had Graham home for about two weeks when that big snowstorm hit DC.  I think he remembers it.  
Molly and Sofie haven't really experienced much snow.  Molly is a pretty princess who does not like to go outside when it is cold, raining, has recently rained, might possible rain, or if the sun goes behind a cloud.  
Sofie is generally just scared of everything.
When we woke up yesterday morning and saw how much was coming down, we took them out for a very short and windy walk in it (mostly in hopes that they would stop being ticking time bombs of poop).
They tore up and down the sidewalk, wrestled and rolled around and generally wore themselves out very quickly.  (And yes, our plan was successful).
My run was not quite as successful, however.  I headed up the street and turned left on the trail, straight into the ridiculous wind.  After spending a minute or so running in place while being attacked with snow bullets, eyes squeezed shut, I reluctantly decided to shut it down.  I'll eat more Wheaties and try again next time.
But the snow has moved on, the wind has died today, and today I'll head out for a lovely long run in the bright sunshine.  12ยบ and 12ish inches of snow?
I'm still so happy to be here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Austin Half Marathon: race report

I didn't want to run a half marathon this year.
I've lost a bit of my taste for racing, somewhere.  I've learned that I would prefer training block after training block after training block, and I don't like interrupting that with the taper/race/recovery mess that comes along with race day.  But I also have learned that I need to be doing things that get me out of my comfort zone (sigh), so a half marathon it was.
By this point in my life, I've run a fistful of half marathons, about half of them off the bike.  And almost without exception, I've lined up with something nagging - maybe I'm still getting over a cold, maybe I had a devastating back injury and haven't run in two weeks, maybe this wahh, maybe that wahh.  If I had lined up for the marathon like I had originally planned, I would have been in that situation.  Because bouncing back from the mess my life was all fall to a marathon the second week of February, that would have left something nagging.  But when I stepped to the line Sunday morning, my mind was empty, calm, clear.  Peaceful.
I didn't have any time goals going in, not even secret "scary goals" in the back of my head.  I had process goals, and basing my day around execution and not around the final number, that is starting to work well for me.  I had no idea what my overall time was until after I passed the mile 12 marker, when I flipped my watch screen over for a split second, and then flipped it back.  I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to run on Sunday, and that's what I ran.  I don't believe in race day magic, not really, not anymore.  With a few exceptions, I had a solid six or seven week block of training going into this race, and I'm not surprised, shocked, impressed, horrified, or enthralled with the race I had.  I am simply, quietly, pleased.  
Part of that is MAF training, I think.  Before I trained by MAF, I swung back and forth between crazy leaps of improvement and devastating set-backs due to injury, back and forth, over and over.  Now I don't make those swings anymore, I'm off that roller-coaster.  Instead, I move forward slowly and steadily, I am laying bricks in the foundation of my house.  Then suddenly it's been over a year since I've been injured, suddenly I'm in the longest stretch of time I've ever been in, since I started running in 1999, without an atom bomb of injury being dropped on my training.  Part of it is my Sonja, for sure, we all know that, and part of it, this time around, is working through a training cycle with these ladies.  They are rock stars and I'm lucky to have found them here in Boulder (well, they were already here, but now I'm here too).  
So, the race.  I forgot to turn off auto-lap before the race started, and for some reason thought it was a good idea to lap at mile markers anyway, so my data is a disaster of messed-up splits.  I don't really care.  The race took a few splits here and there with timing mats, so I know what it looks like I did on paper, but the truth it, I don't really care about that either.  I'm not sure I'm interested in narrating the day with splits and times and hills and nutrition and hydration and all of those things, not this time.  For the better part of the race, my mind was blank, an empty space (insert joke about it being empty all the time here; go ahead, walk through the door, I opened it for you).  I ran 10-11 miles of the race without music, and only put in the earbuds near the end with the hope that it would let me hurt a little harder.  It didn't.  The course was described as hilly and challenging.  It was.  I got down two gels and a bunch of water at some point between the start and finish.  My form collapsed into a nightmareish mess in the later miles.  That all happened.  But those details just aren't interesting to me right now.  
I will tell you, I will tell anyone, openly and honestly, that what holds me back in racing is my mind.  More precisely, my fear of hurting on the run.  I used to be afraid of race-day blowups, and I'm past that, or maybe I'm not and it's the same thing as it was, just wearing different pants.  I am afraid to hurt, I am afraid of what it looks like out there on the edge, and facing it is the only way I'm ever going to get the F over it.  It's fascinating to me that I'm not really afraid of it in the water, and it's been a while since I've had a block with a lot of cycling in it but I'm pretty sure it doesn't show up there as loudly as it does on the run.  The voice in my head, the one that tells me it's okay to slow down, to walk, to ease up, the weenie that hates to go ouch, that voice didn't pipe up Sunday morning.  That voice, along with all the other voices in my crazy little brain, was silent.  
So I lined up, and I ran, and I hurt myself a little bit harder than I've ever managed to do so in the past.  That's progress.  But is there still room for growth, do I still have the ability to hurt myself even harder?  Absolutely.  I knew it was true before I looked at my data, and I know it's true now.  
I said a long time ago, somewhere, that I'm not so much concerned with numbers this year.  Seven weeks in, I'm glad that is still true.  I couldn't even tell you what my official finishing time was on Sunday.  What I will tell you is that training is continuing to be a vehicle for change in my life.  And not because of how much I ran on which day for how fast, not because how many hours I rode at how many watts, not because of any of that.  The change is walking down the road of learning about myself, about constantly trying to do things better, to discard the noise and trash and stay true to the work that needs to be done.  To talk less, to do more.  Last month I ran a ten miler.  I executed it like I was supposed to, I reached as far as I could reach on that day with those legs.  I was relatively unconcerned that I squeaked out a PR.  This weekend I ran a half marathon.  I executed it well; as Sonja keeps telling me, I went looking for the floor of my well.  I found it, I dug out a few shovelfuls of dirt and now my well is a tiny bit deeper.  It doesn't much matter to me right now that I took another handful of minutes off another PR - what matters is that when I went out and stumbled into the pain, I didn't give into it.  Instead I said hello, I made friends with it, I ran 13.1 miles straight through it without any drama or problems or disruptions, and then I was done with it.  The next time I go out looking for it, I'll be a little bit less afraid and I'll be able to reach a little higher.  But for now, I am at peace.  I am simply, pleased.  I said it two years ago after my first half marathon, and I'll say it again now because it continues to resonate with me.
Life's this game of inches.

Monday, February 11, 2013

my life as a blogger is complete

A lot of someones sent me this late last night.  Apparently someone over at the meme factory found this picture and cheezburger'd it up.  
It's somewhat remarkable that this picture does not largely feature my ass, based on the volume of those photos floating around.  Also, as many have commented, surely we can come up with a better meme than THAT.  (Original meme posted here, photo stolen from here). 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I don't know what's wrong with me

That phrase has been in my post-workout notification comments at least three times in the past few weeks.  "I don't know what's wrong with me."

"I'm a mess."

Training isn't going poorly.  In fact, training is going far better than I would expect for January (well, now February).  I'm really not a fan of doing comparisons, especially to myself, but if I think about how I was running in January of last year and how I'm running now, it's better.  Not a lot better, I'm not suddenly running sub-7s at MAF, but slightly better.  A noticeable amount of better.  Especially when I consider the double-slammer of recovering from pneumonia (lungs are clear, most days I don't need a shot from the inhaler) and moving a mile up (still see black spots if I get out of bed too quickly but I don't have to breathe every stroke AND off the wall in the pool anymore).  I know I'm not adjusted to the altitude yet - the common consensus is that it takes somewhere between six weeks and two years to adjust fully - but when I bother to look at my pace at all, it's not nearly as horrifying as I would expect based on the past few months of my life.  And we won't even mention the twelve pounds I gained in the off-season.

So, that said, I don't know why I keep falling apart.  

I'm certainly not going to pretend to be perfect, and that means talking about the hot mess just like I talk about my triumphs.  It started a few weeks ago, I headed out for a tempo-ish run, and for some reason, while I was warming up, just felt incredibly blue.  Like tearing up, water in the eyeballs blue.  And those of you that know me, know that I am 98% on the T scale.  I barely have feelings at all, I hate it when people are emotional, and I certainly can't deal with it when it's myself. 

I finished my run - which was fine, even running up a slight hill into the wind I managed to hit the various gibberish I was supposed to hit - and then trudged home like someone just told me Santa actually isn't real.  Emotional gak, coming up and out of me, and I have no idea why or what to do with it or - most importantly - how to make it GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE.

Sonja responded to my WTF workout notes by dumping all the intensity out of my sessions for a while to give me a chance to figure out my shit (which I was cranky about but turned out to be exactly what I needed, as usual).  And I had the happiest week, I splish-splashed through masters (yes, I went; yes, I am embarrassed that I was scared of it for so long; no, I don't care if you make fun of me for being scared), spun my easy wheels and chitchatted through social runs with my watch stuffed in my pocket.  I spent all week preparing for my last long & hard run before Austin, really preparing my brain to knock the stuffing out of it.  Hopefully your sense of foreboding has kicked in by now.

It was a disaster, the whole day was a disaster.  I'm over it now, I'm trying to figure it out and I'm certainly not letting it hang over me, but it was a mess.  I met my good training buddy on a new (to me) trail in north Boulder, and we thought it was going to be flat (we were specifically instructed to find flat) and it turned out to be a steep rocky hilly mountainous mess.  A trail that I would love to run another time, when I can be happy in the sunshine, but not a good one when I have a run that is supposed to descend starting thirty minutes in.

After about fifteen minutes of running, I turned around and headed back down the rocks to look and see if I could find flat trail, and I couldn't.  I found a short stretch of flattish terrain and headed off that way, only for it to dead-end about 1/2 a mile later in someone's backyard.  And I stopped.  In the middle of the trail, frustrated and pissed off.  I turned off my watch and walked back to my car with tears leaking out of my head like a crazy person.  I couldn't even convince my legs to jog up the little trail when I got cold, I was just done.

I drove home, I got in bed, I was mad some more, I ate crap, I cried mad little tears, I did all the things you aren't supposed to do (all the things I would never tell my own athletes to do but that is a discussion for another post), I punished myself HARD for being such a failure.

What a mess, eh?

The thing that I can't figure out, is that training is actually going well.  I don't feel like I should be doing "better" anywhere or like I am failing, I feel like I am doing really just fine, I am seeing progress across at least two sports, month to month, year to year.  Which means the problem isn't with my training, it's with my big fat stupid brain.  I've been trying so hard to be more detached about my running, and when things chug along, it goes pretty well.  But the problem - according to my master therapist - is not the getting mad part.  It's the getting mad AT the getting mad.  We had a long chat on Monday and I'm still not exactly sure I understand what is wrong or how to fix it, but I'm starting with awareness, only because "ignore it and hope it goes away" was a pretty massive failure.

I've dealt with mental crap before.  It was almost a year ago when I talked about how I was completely afraid to fail, how it created one mental blow-up after another, race day after race day.  And then earlier this year, even, when I talked about how I felt guilty and undeserving of the very positive changes that have happened in my life over the past few months.  The key, or one of the many many many keys, or maybe just a place to start, is to stop punishing myself.  For things that have happened in the past, for mistakes I have made, for feelings that I am feeling.  Every time something good happens, I feel the need to punish myself, because who am I to be lucky and happy?  Who am I to accept health and generosity and love from others?  And every time something bad happens, I feel the need to punish myself because it's what I deserve.  How about that for a load of psychological crap on a random Tuesday morning in February?

I did get the run done, by the way.  I got up before sunrise on Monday morning and headed to a flatter terrain'd trail, alone and in the quiet of the morning.  The run wasn't perfect.  The trail ended at a road about 2 miles before I needed it to end, so I did a bunch of crazy out-and-backs in the middle to make up the distance.  All the crap I ate on Sunday came rushing down with a vengeance, and I ended up leaping into the bushes/behind a tree/next to a bridge at least a half-dozen times in the middle of harder sections of running (sacrificed both gloves and a sock).  And the last ten minutes, where I was supposed to be really flying, I took off after hitting the lap button FAR too fast and burned the last little match I had, so I didn't hit my numbers.  None of that matters.  I'm pretty sure what matters is that I got it done, I've let it go, and I'm trying to figure my way forward, both in AND out of the run shoes.