Monday, November 12, 2012

My Running Journey, Part 2: I Am Not A Runner

Why these posts? About how much I can't run?

Because I maintain the right to feel sorry for myself.

Mostly though, I'm trying to establish a baseline for a goal I've set.

And I need you to understand how very exceedingly unquestionably low that baseline is.

That's because .... okay ... breeeeeeeeathe ...

I'm making this official.

I'm signing up for an Ironman.

There. I said it.

What's that?

Oh. You couldn't hear me.

Right, right.

I'm, um. Signing up for an Ironman.



That's a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a marathon.

In case you're unfamiliar, a marathon is a distance that you run.

Run, as in, with your legs.

Run 26 miles with an additional 385 yards tacked on, just for kicks and giggles.

Also, in case you can't understand my problem with this, let me repeat.

I. Am. Not. A. Runner.


So why the #*%&! (<---- that says "goodness") would I sign up for an Ironman?

This is not a complicated question, but it feels like a complicated answer.

Perhaps that's because anyone willing to go through misery of that magnitude is likely a complicated person. Or a masochist. And if you stop to consider, that's a complication in its own right.

It started with a couple of my friends, Daniel and Eli.

(Daniel, L, and Eli, R: paragons of physical prowess.)

I hadn't become friends with Eli yet, but I'd known Daniel for a while. Daniel met and befriended Eli who was training for the St. George Ironman and, because that's what friends do, Daniel said, "Hey! I'll join you!"

Though I suppose I wasn't there, so the conversation may have gone differently.

Point is, for a bunch of months, I was privy to watching them (not literally, that's creepy) train for this massive race. And I found it really inspiring.

It was easy to "watch" from the sidelines because I talked to Daniel all the time and Eli is a writer. He picked some of his choice despairing and triumphant moments to record for the public at large.

His humorous entries on the matter start HERE and go through and a bit past the event itself, last May (2012).

If you like Eli's writing and/or want to learn more about an Ironman, his posts are all helpfully organized in the right sidebar. There's one that's labeled "Ironman."

So... inspired to do a little by being vaguely aware that Dan and Eli were both doing a lot, I started running again, early this year. Say, around... not sure.

February? March? April?

When I run everything's a blur. Not because I'm fast but because my brain goes stupid.

Also, that's when my other issues (see "Thyroid," Running Journey, Part 1: All My Problems) were literally affecting my brain. I can't remember much from those months.

Then! (Oh, that fateful day!) The Saturday of their Ironman arrived.

I was holed up in a hotel for the weekend, ostensibly writing a book.

But I only wrote a few words.

I had multiple browsers open on my laptop all pointed to LIVE! Ironman videos and results. And what transpired through those little electric windows into another world was ... there is no description. I got very excited.

The race they chose was, in itself, the hardest of all the Ironman races. By like... a billion.

I say "was" because the course was so hard that the brand is no longer hosting a full Ironman in St. George. From next year on, it will be a half.

And that's just the course.

On race day, sheer winds turned the lake into -- well, have you ever seen THIS?

I've heard there were even ominous men in dark brown dusters who surrounded the lake and sang scary music while everyone swam.

It was bad.

The harsh winds continued throughout the day, knocking cyclists off the road.

And then. THEN! There was the marathon.

The craziest thing happened. People began crossing the finish-line.

This was astounding.

And I was hooked.

A woman crossed. About my size. Sliiiiightly better shape. They announced her name which I have forgotten.

The announcer proclaimed her age: 34.

He announced her occupation: mother of three.

Then the announcer said, with gusto, as he did for all who crossed-the-line, "Congratulations, __________! YOU are an IRONMAN!"

And, right then and there, laying comfortably in a hotel bed surrounded by plush pillows and warm blankets, where (let's face it) so many of life's bad decisions are made, I thought, "That's almost me. I could do that."

"I SHOULD do that."


Reality is a #*%&! (<---- That says "moldy apple pie.")

An Ironman is practically impossible (duh), especially for me.

So I'm trying to do my research.

--I've decided on an "easier" Ironman location than St. George, a thought that will likely betray me.

--I want PLENTY of time to train so that I can ratchet up my distances in the tiiiiniest increments possible.

--I'm hiring other people to help me. Like an athlete-mercenary.

In an effort to blame my body for the fact I begin running and immediately want to quit, I undertook some physical tests.

--I spent a morning with a Bod Pod, doing a detailed body composition analysis.

--I took a VO2 Max subtest, running on a treadmill in a science lab to determine my cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power.

But that didn't work. My results were fine.

Which left me with two things that could still be wrong, both of which I GUARANTEE I have to address, 1) my mental status while I'm running, and 2) my technique.

--So I took a running class.


Oh yessireebob!

There's such a thing as a running class. And I took it.

Guess what I learned?

(See title of post.)


According to the gurus at Runners Corner in Orem, there are four primary techniques that, when perfected, can make you a good runner.

After filming us running both with shoes on and barefoot, the teachers of this three-hour class discussed each aspect in detail: cadence, foot-strike, posture, and arms.

I will spare you the details of technique.

I will not spare you my embarrassment.

The class examined the video footage in slow-motion, and I was informed that of the four elements, I was, "...doing a really great job at half of one of them!"

Mm-hmm. 1/8 ain't so bad!

In public health we like to use something called social math. That means we take statistical information and make probably inaccurate, possibly misleading, but visually catchy comparisons!

Using social math, I will now compare my running-technique to my body.

I currently have four limbs. If you cut off my legs at my hips, one arm at the shoulder, and the other arm at my elbow ... that's the kind of runner I am. Only people with no limbs actually run better than me.

The next morning I took my new-found knowledge and hit the street.

Whiiiich was a bad idea. Because on the street, people can see you.

Seriously. I looked like a chicken.

"Feet faster, strike front, arms up, body straight, fall forward..." became my mantra.

My chicken mantra.

It was truly so awkward that I moved to a back trail to practice where no one could see me.

And after a while, I fell into a rhythm (and probably old habits) and ran what felt like 20 miles, even though it was closer to 2... because, you know. I'm still a baby chicken runner, and everything feels like a really long way.


I can't tell you yet whether this running-class has helped me, in part because I've been off traveling to exotic places the last few weeks (hello Kanab, UT!) and haven't been exercising like I should have.

Chances are the techniques themselves are great and that, as I continue to have trouble employing them, I will have to hand the technique-teachers wads of athlete-mercenary cash to take me on (please!) as a personal project.

Coaches enjoy a challenge, right?

In the meantime, I'm headed to Arizona this weekend to volunteer for the Ironman in Tempe! There are so many complicated people in this world that Ironman AZ fills up in record time, and volunteers get priority registration for 2013. It's not a guarantee that I'll get in, but it's on my list as a researched effort.

My volunteer group is manning run aid station #2, and our theme is Superheroes! so that'll be loads of fun. I haven't decided on my costume yet, but Halloween Part II? Yes, please!

Photos next week. Maybe.

Even though I know that hard stuff happens, and I may not finish the race, I'm gonna try.

And if you keep reading, I'll take you on my running journey.

The one where I ... dare I say it? ... learn to run and maybe even learn to enjoy it.

(Interspersed with posts about the rest of life.)


Lore said...

You go, girl! Keep us posted (literally)!

Dan said...

You're incredible! Keep up the training and posting. Can't wait to hear more about this journey, it's already motivating me to get up and move.

Calli said...

i don't know if i am worried about your mental state or extremely proud and inspired by all this...and that is coming from a runner...nonetheless, all your entries continue to amuse. when can i get the book? i have some christmas shopping to do.