Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Running Journey, Part 3: It's a Charlatan Thing

I find it's best to write when I am both exhausted and in physical pain. Don't you?

It keeps me honest -- less inhibition, more zest.

In keeping with my need for an outlet, I intend to write about my Ironman experience -- starting with my volunteer experience in Arizona last November (I know . . . so far, I've skipped it) to my own IMAZ race experience this November.

Indeed. Catharsis is the reason for today's post.

You see, I have officially changed from being a complete and total non-runner, to a person who looks and acts like a runner but doesn't feel like one at all!

Is this progress? I'm not sure.

Two weeks from today I will run my first race. It's a 10K (6.2 miles) that will be run outside, no matter the weather (see last post). I am prepping mentally and physically in the usual manner: screaming, eating a lot, and occasionally going to the gym.

(I don't know why, but I almost wrote 'zoo' instead of 'gym.' See how writing while tired is super honest?)

Some of you may be thinking, "Surely (you idiot) this can't be your very first race ever?"

Despite the fact I'm kind of mad at you for suggesting I'm a liar, your question is a good one. And I am a liar, but only sort of.

In my heady college days, a roommate suggested we sign up for a biathlon. So we did! Just. Like. That.

Oh, those good old college days!

Here we are before the race. Don't we look tough?

Tiffany the strong & Kelly the ... wait. 
Am I actually making a muscle? I don't see one.

The biathlon was a 1/2 mile swim and a 5K.

I prepared for the swim like this . . .

"Well, I know how to swim."

That was it.

When I completed the swim, the Lap-Counting-Helper-Girl told me I could get out of the pool. But she was mistaken. I could not get out. No, but really. I tried and failed. Then I thought I might drown, and I wondered if anyone would notice. And *then* the LCHG told me I HAD to get out. I was sharing the lane with other swimmers after all.

It took me an entire five minutes (I think, you know how time flies when you're having fun), but eventually I rolled myself up onto the side of the pool like a very small but totally beached whale.

I lay/sat there a long time before I remembered that a biathlon meant two events. I finished them both. But my time was so terrible I've blocked it from my memory.

BTW: While I was rummaging for that image, I found a few more photos from ye olde undergraduate years. And so I shall prove to you now how doing badly in that race was not a fluke.

Photo #1

I believe this was the first photo ever taken of me on campus, during freshman week when we were getting to know our roommates by playing field games. See how I'm already requiring that others do the heavy lifting? They moved all my boxes into our dorm, too, while I ate Cheetos and played Rubik's Cube.

Tammy, Kelly, Carrie

Photo #2

Due to early freshman bonding, Tammy and I remained good friends. Yet after years of forcing her to carry me around campus, she finally retaliated. 

 Photo #3

I used to cycle from time to time with this fellow whose last name I don't in fact remember. Nevertheless, I grabbed my bike, and we made it all the way to Utah Lake! Which wasn't very far. And also, it wasn't my bike. Oh! And also, also . . . I'm just now remembering this, but I still have a scar on my knee from that ride.

 Jason, pink water bottle, Kelly

Photo #4

Hiking the West Rim of Zion National Park. Notice the way I'm leaning on my friend? I'd like to say it was just for the photo, but you know me. After this shot she carried me piggy-back.

Kelly, Mindy, girl, other girl, Ryan, Amy

Photo #5

Last, in case you think I have no fighting spirit, if you think I'm just a finishing-last, carried-by-roommates kind of gal, think again! Because I NAILED this competition! Grand-master donut-scarfing night of sugary sweet awesomeness.


Okay, nostalgic lazy days over, let me finish answering your question -- the one where you accused me of having never raced before.

In addition to the biathlon, I have also done two 5Ks. Which I walked. Both of them.


And that brings us back to today and next week and pain and exhaustion.

Here's the thing.

Remember how I took that running technique class? 

Well, I did. And I found out that I don't run the way I should and that when I try to run properly I look like a chicken.

Remember how I went and bought a lot of race specific gear? 

Well, probably not because I doubt I mentioned it. But now I am.

I bought some Pearl Izumi minimalist, isoTransition, 4mm drop running shoes. I bought CW-X thermal compression Pro Tights (which sounds super-cool because "Tights" is preceded with "Pro") because the saleslady at Scheels claimed the webbing would keep my hips and knees in proper alignment, minimize lactic acid build-up, and improve recovery. I bought a couple of high-visibility thermal running shirts/jackets.

I even purchased a pair of $55 Saucony cold-weather running gloves. Seriously, I think I've only ever bought one other pair of gloves in my life, and those for well under $10. All other gloves have been hand-me-downs, or I've found them in gutters and rinsed them off before wearing.

Remember how I ask everyone I know for running advice?

Well, I do. If I see someone running who looks like they're good at it and/or enjoy it, I stop them mid-stride and ask them how & why they are able to run and not cry at the same time. And I try very hard to take their advice.

Remember how I've started running?

Yeah. Me too.

After my first, and so far only, 10 mile run.
It was after this run, in fact, that I decided I needed better gear.
(P.S. I found those gloves in a gutter.)

I've been building up stamina, no doubt, but it's a very slow process. When I started, I couldn't run a mile without stopping.

(Hey! Just so's you know, one of my very favorite people to talk to these days has run over 50 marathons in addition to a 50-miler. She LOVES to run and has lots of fun doing it. And yet she told me, "The first mile is always the hardest." Them's words to live by!)

Recently I've been on the treadmill at the gym (again, see last post) in my compression pants and jiggity-jig shoes, and I've been trying to go for certain distances without stopping. I rarely if ever make it.

Then . . . (this is where the pain and exhaustion come in) . . . last week, my family got sick. I was sick for about a day, but Bridgette was pretty bad. It was a respiratory thing, and she was in rotten shape, hacking and rattling without stop. She'd cough so hard she'd vomit, again and again. It was a series of long days and longer nights, and I wasn't able to train.

And after that I fell down the stairs.

Yep. You heard me.

It was three days ago, Thursday, the day of the infamous Utah ice-storm. Only I didn't fall down icy steps, I slipped on the carpeted steps you see in that photo above.

I have a new respect for old people who break themselves upon staircases. Because I was very nearly broken, and I'm not old.

It really hurt. It still hurts.

So yesterday (Friday) I hit the gym for the first time in a week, knowing my 10K was happening 15 days later. Ready or not, here it comes.

And you know what?

I felt like I was starting over!!!

One week off and back to zero. Back to stopping before I reached 1 mile. Gah!

I managed 4 miles yesterday, in batches of 2 miles each. And despite lack of sleep due to deep-bruise induced all-over pain, I headed back today for more, squeaking out at 5 miles. So now I'm tired and in pain and sore too.

In the end, I know I can finish a 10K, yet I don't feel like a runner. Not in the slightest.

In fact, I'm afraid. I'm afraid that after actually trying I will end up finishing, but only barely, just like that biathlon of yesteryear.

But here's the weird part. People are beginning to think I'm a runner, even though I know I'm not.

After all, I run so slowly, that I end up running a long time. Other gym rats who notice I'm still going 30 minutes after they've stopped look at me like, "Huh, check out that girl who's wearing official-looking running gear. And sweating a lot. She must be a runner. Hey look, she's still running."


If they ran a 20 minute mile, they'd run a long time too. I feel like a fake. A fake that's trying, but still.


Today, despite my difficulties, I had two interesting interactions at the gym.

1) After I moved on to weight-training, I noticed a guy who was a real runner. He had good form, and he ran fast. Later on we ended up working out on neighboring machines, so of course I asked him about it.

He told me he used to run 10-11 miles every other day, for fun. You know. He's one of those people.

Which is great because I need to know more of those people.

Then he suffered an injury and has only recently been able to run again. And he said, "The first time I got back on the treadmill, I couldn't even run a mile." No! "I'm only now getting up to about 5 miles. If I had one piece of advice? I'd say, don't stop. Even when you want to stop, don't."

So that was comforting.

2) As I was leaving, I once again accosted talked to a good runner, this time a young woman. She pointed to an older man on the step machine next to her and said, "He's the coach of the UVU long-distance track team. He gave me a few pointers a couple of weeks ago, and it's made a huge difference."

Of course I sidled right up to him and told him my ultimate goal and asked him for advice.

Coach Evans talked to me about how to incrementally advance my training, swim / bike / run, without getting injured.

I told him I was running a 10K this weekend, and he said, "That's pretty far! You should start with a 5K!"

Then he kindly took a break and asked me to hop on the treadmill and run for him.

"Yeah, sure," I said with more bravado than I felt because the last time I was judged on technique I failed miserably. I've been working on it, but I hadn't yet asked anyone professional for feedback. Also, I was at the end of a 2 hour workout, and I didn't feel like running.

He watched me for a few minutes and gave me a couple of pointers, mostly on my hands and arms and breathing. Then he watched me a few more minutes, and finally said, "Actually, you look really good. Your foot strike is right, your posture and lean are perfect, your knees are bent correctly, and your gait is good."

And that was that, and I felt a little better.

Not because I'm a runner.

Make no mistake, I'm still a charlatan.

But because I am no longer a charlatan that also runs like a chicken.


Lore said...

Hang in there... and NO MORE FALLING DOWN STEPS! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!! (Moms can say things like that.)

Tammy and Alvin said...

Wow! You sure did find some real treasures in your scrapbook! Thanks for including me in your running journey.
Sometimes when I'm shopping, I see shoes in crazy colors and I think to myself, "Who would buy those?" and how could they possibly match the person's outfit? Now I know. :) You totally coordinate and you look great! Don't believe you ran 10 miles before that picture.

Anonymous said...

So that makes this Saturday the race. Let us know how it goes!