Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Don't stop now... it's not over yet!"

OK, so I've been AWOL for a long time now. Two weeks. Too much. With my mother in town, rather than giving me the time to exercise without worrying about my psycho-dog, she's created guilt when I spend the time away from her. Or, perhaps, she's provided an excuse. I don't know.

My plan for after she leaves is to return to the gym every day after work. The weather is driving me there. That, and I'm going into withdrawl from netflix discs (I set a video player on the machines).

Now, the question you're surely wondering: did she run last week's race? Of course! I actually think I did pretty well for my first 5k, considering the spottiness of my training up to the race. (I'd only run 3 miles once before.)

I had two friends joining me at the starting line. One sprinted away like a bunny when the cannon rang out (yes, we had a starter cannon), and the other stayed true to her word to walk the 5k while I... um... didn't quite sprint away.

Remembering my struggle from the previous week's century, I made a concerted effort to watch my pace. No faster than 12:00 minute miles; no slower than 13:00 minute miles. A much older man came up from behind me, and I used him to pace myself for a while. At least until he got too far ahead. I told my pride to be quiet as I watched him disappear into the horizon. I had my own race to run, and I was going to run it, darnit.

I played leap-frog with people foolishly alternating too-high effort with recovery walking. Of course, children understandably did this. Certainly, some people may have been walk-running intentionally. I suspect, however, that these two groups were a minority. Of course, that's pretty much what I did during the Virginia City run, so who was I to criticize? I'm just proud of myself that I ran the whole way without stopping. Well, one stop, but that doesn't count. I'll tell you later.

One leap-frogger answered her cell phone and talked for a while. Really? Wow.

A few leap-froggers coincidentally went back to running every single time I caught up with them. Coincidentally, I'm sure. It couldn't possibly be that they figured that they were OK as long as the fat chick stayed behind them. Nah. I even heard one person exhale, "Damn!" when I passed them too soon after they dropped to a walk. I guess they figured out that they might not be able to stay ahead of the fat chick. Poor things. :-)

I think I'm going to have t-shirts made. The front will say: "I'm OK that they're ahead of me." The back will say: "It's OK that you're behind me."

Yes, I had to negotiate with myself. A lot. "Run the first mile, and then you can take a walking break." "No, you don't need to stop after a mile, push through the discomfort." "Remember, this is what running's all about: running when your body is screaming to stop." "You only have a mile to go. Don't you dare think about walking."

Luckily it was a very flat course. Otherwise, I may have told the negotiator in my head to shove it. As it was, it was a successful negotiation. I didn't stop at all. (Yes, yes, we'll get there). In fact, I even kicked up the pace a bit for my third mile despite never having done negative splits before. And, I started a pretty strong kick once I saw the finish line.

Um, yeah. The finish line.

Balloons. People cheering. An announcer even mentioning my (I assume) push to the end. The timing mat.

I pass the timing mat, turned the corner and proudly slow to a walk. Why isn't anyone else slowing down? Then, a voice: "Don't stop now! It's not over yet!" I look up. Oh, man. That wasn't the finish line!

I kick it back up and push. Hard. So hard that I'm a bit nauseated and can't think of stopping to let someone clip off my timing chip, and walk around a bit before returning and stopping for a kind woman to retrieve the chip.

OK, so at least I never intentionally gave up running. I'll have to forgive myself my faux pas. Besides, it gives me an easier PR (personal record) to break at my next race. Next time I'll be sure to look for that big sign showing the time as you finish before I stop. Oh yeah, that. Small clue that you're actually at the finish line.

After grabbing a drink, I returned to the finish line to cheer on my friends (and others) as they finished, basking in the glow of a race well run.

Oh, you want to know how I did? Well, my Garmin reported 38:45. Woohoo! A sub 39 minute 5k for someone who couldn't run 30 seconds not too long ago. Sub 13-minute mile splits on a 5k for someone who got a doctor to write a note excusing her from all running in elementary school (and beyond).

A few days later, my official time changed the sub-39 minute 5k, but didn't change the sub-13-minute pace. The timing chip reported 39:15. I don't quite know why there was a difference. That's still a 12:40/mi pace. I won't complain.

I was also 42nd in my age group, out of 61. Hard to say where I really placed, because they lumped 5k walkers in with 5k runners. I suspect that I was 42nd out of 43. :) Overall, I was 347th out of 543 5k walkers and runners.

It was a very good day.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This is not a hill!

Seriously, that's what they painted on part of the ride I did yesterday! (Notice that I said "did", not completed. More on that later.) There I was, cruising along, looking occasionally for the little green painted arrows on the ground, when I saw those words (or similar words) fly beneath me.

Hmmm... Sure felt like a hill. Sure, a very shallow hill that's more of a flat molehill, but a climb nonetheless. However, it's understandable that, when you're hosting a "No Hill Hundred", you certainly should deny any knowledge of any hill-like presence.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Actually, the notice really made me chuckle as I stood on the pedals and climbed virtually effortlessly. I'll also admit that standing to climb was probably really overkill for that little non-hill.

The whole ride, including the not-a-hill-hill was really very, very enjoyable. From the human bike stands at the first rest stop for the metric (yes, you read that right: metric), to the very friendly volunteers, to the riders of all shapes, sizes, ages, and bikes, to the uncrustables they served at one of the rest stops, and even to the smiling and waving Search and Rescue folks providing SAG suport, my first official ride was a pleasure.

Let me amend that: it was wonderful until mile 54. I didn't bonk; I had plenty of energy. I'm not even positive that I started out too fast, though I'm considering it. I think my body just wasn't ready for 61 darned miles. My quads were in serious pain. I'm not saying they were sore, or cramping, or even a bit tired. They ached so badly that I had to take a break every one to two miles, watching my Garmin every foot of the way. I had to keep negotiating with myself just to go a little further, then I would take a break. This was also after I had slowed down to 10-11 mph, down from my 14-19 mph for most of the ride.

When I almost broke down into tears at the thought of the remaining miles, I made the decision: take a shortcut. You're here for fun, I told myself, not competition. Heck, there wasn't a mass start, and the only one with any knowledge of your time is you. If you're miserable, then there's absolutely no one who will benefit. Your longest ride this year, for heaven's sake, was only 25 miles, and you haven't ridden for weeks! Be proud of what you did, and finish with a smile.

So, openly announcing it to some who passed, and nodding to those who saw me going the opposite way from the route, I took a shortcut back. My total distance was 60.92 miles. I'm not ashamed at all. It was just shy of the ride's planned 61-point-something. (Yes, that's a bit shy of a true metric, so sue them and me.)

In case you're wondering how a shortcut only shaved off a fraction of a mile, let me go back to the beginning of the ride: we got lost. Yes, lost. I was blithely following a few riders, chatting along the way, when we saw a sign that said "no outlet". Really? That's pretty odd, since we just began. They kept going, and I turned around. (Heck, they saw the same sign I did, and even commented on it.) We had missed a turn. That's when I started looking for the green pavement markings religiously and checking my cue sheet obsessively. We also added about two miles to our trip.

So, that's why my shortcut still took me to nearly 61 miles.

Not bad. Not bad at all. And yes, I finished with a smile.

Next week: my first 5k. (Oh yeah, my other milestone of the past week: I ran three miles without stopping for the first time on Wednesday morning. Race day, here I come!)

Oh, more good/neutral news: My weight at this time is 205.3 pounds. That's back down 1.3 pounds from last week. This is making me think: perhaps I should stop counting calories temporarily and start listening to my body. If I'm maintaining my weight despite what I think is significant overeating, maybe my body's telling me something my brain is ignorant of: I need more food. I'm not saying that I'm going to do it, but I'm-a-thinkin': maybe it's time to intentionally put the obsessive calorie counting on pause. If I do take an official break (trial separation?) from my scale and calorie-counting software then, of course, I'll have guidelines to get adequate nutrition from fruits, vegetables, and all that other healthy stuff.

It's really food for thought, ahem, so to speak.

OK, onward and forward. I'll see you again next Sunday, if not before.

(Oh, and though I'm not responding directly lately, thanks to everyone's encouraging words and patient tolerance of my little tantrum. They really mean a lot. Seriously.)

Oh, one last thing: I fit into the skinniest jeans in my closet today. The last time I tried to put them on, I couldn't get them around my hips. OK, so they may have been a teenie-bit too tight. But, who cares? They fit, darnit, and I could breathe, move, and even walk around downtown. Yeehaw!

OK, I'll stop babbling now. :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Checking In

OK, my temper tantrum is officially over, but things still haven't magically gotten better. (And, no, I'm not quitting. I realize that my parting comment last Sunday was a little unclear. I didn't mean that I was leaving. I meant that I'm not myself lately, and that the real "me" will be back some day. Of course, it's the same me, just not as successful and a bit grumpier.)

OK, so let's see how I'm progressing on my IAP. I told a co-worker about it, by the way, who then responded, "But, Karen, you know that Special Education doesn't work, don't you?" Um, yeah. Big help there, thanks. (Actually, this co-worker and I have a habit of razzing each other. And, since our jobs are both virtually inexorably tied in Special Education, I could almost see the bulge left by his tongue hitting his cheek.)

Anyway, drum roll, please:

Healthy Eating: 8 points out of a possible 28. That's 29%.
Exercise: 5 out of a possible 24. That's 21%.

Yowzers. Ouch. OK, let's think about this. It could be much, much worse. It could have been 0% and 0%. Let's give credit where credit is due. I haven't quit, and - despite a rather ugly little fit - I'm still trudging on, albeit nearly as slowly as molassis at absolute zero.

So, where to go from here? Let's see... In Special Education, when a student doesn't make a goal, we have two choices: modify the goal or keep shooting for the same goal. Since I'm a slow, stubborn learner; I'll keep the same goal. So, two weeks from today I'm looking to hit that 40% mark in both areas. OK, let's compromise: one area.

Since a relative is coming into town and will be able to babysit my dog, thus freeing my schedule a bit more since my roommate went out of town, I think this is totally do-able.

One revision to my previous IAP: Wednesdays are a free day. Not just a reward day, but a free day, period.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how little my weight has changed. Don't get me wrong; it's not pretty. But, it's not nearly as bad as it could be. Two weeks ago: 205.5 pounds. One week ago: 204.8 pounds. Today: 206.6 pounds. OK, yes - that's almost a two pound gain in the last week. On the bright side, that's actually a two-pound loss from four weeks ago, and I've been having difficulty since going back to work in the middle of August.

Ok, you want to hear the punchline? I have two events coming up in the next two weeks. Stubborn as I am, I'm still going to do them, though not nearly as well as I might have otherwise. On Saturday, I'll be riding the metric (62 miles) in the "No Hill Hundred". Very optimistic, I know. But, since I can do a slightly hilly 20 miler, I think a completely flat 62 miles (with SAG support) is within the realm of possibility. Worst case scenario: I find out exactly what SAG support is.

Then, a week from then, I have my first 5k. Yikes! I don't think that it will be the "graduation" 5k that it was supposed to be. Worse yet, I've invited - nay, pressured - people from work to run it "with" (read: well ahead of) me. Well, I certainly can't back out of that one, can I? And, actually, there's a possibility that I might be actually (barely) able to run a 5k at that point in time. I just have to hope that it, too, is very, very flat. Any chance that it'll all be downhill? OK, didn't think so.

Hmmm.. maybe that's a metaphor for my overall transformation. Maybe that's what I'm hitting this past month and a half: a long, ugly hill. And I'll be over the summit very soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. Nevertheless, eventually.