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200 miles later…

In the past eleven months, I have run 200 miles.  Who’d have thought?

Warning: this post is insanely long.  Enjoy!

On 21 March 2011, I went outside and I ran for the first time.  This is what I wrote in my running log:

A 6 a.m. thunderstorm messed with my morning routine…but I still ran. It was a rainy run, but I enjoyed it. However, I curse those hills with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. One day I’ll appreciate the hills, but today is not that day.

I started out with the popular Couch to 5K program, but after four or five weeks of the 9-week program I decided that I just didn’t like it and would rather go at my own pace.  It was slow going…really slow.  Four weeks into my running career and I had just gotten to the point where I could run five minutes without having a walk break:

C25K w4d2: I ran for 5 minutes without stopping! Doesn’t sound like much (which it isn’t) but it’s been my struggle this week…I just had to remind myself that if I didn’t finish the 5 minutes, I wouldn’t forgive myself. So I did it!
I bet the non-runners who pass me think that running is something horrible. I mean, my face must make it look like torture! I’m all sweaty and red (stupid Irish skin) and have this fierce look of tired concentration…it must not look like fun at all.
But it is, my non-runner friends. It is.

And that was the last day of Couch to 5K before I decided to quit that and do my own thing.  At that point in my running, it still felt like a chore.  Something I had to do for my morning routine, something that I would beat myself up if I skipped, something that I did for no other reason than because I knew it was good for me.  But soon I began to really really enjoy it:

Didn’t fit in a run today as I’d hoped. Won’t be able to do one tomorrow either. I’m upset.
It’s funny, there was once a time when I’d be super glad for my busy schedule to give me an excuse not to run–now when I don’t have time for a run I actually feel sad! This is progress, people!

And shortly after that, I got my brother Jake to run with me!  Of course, he’s very athletic and on his first run he was already a better runner than I was…but we have fun together.

Ran with Jake today. It was basically awesome. Weather was pretty miserable though…so humid; we got out of breath so fast. But the sunset was pretty.
Jake (jokingly): “I’m tired. I think I’ll skip my shower. What’s a little sweat?”
Me: “Yeah, me too. Then when I wake up, I’ll harvest the salt crystals and put them on my hard-boiled egg.”

It was around that time that some of our best friends took up running as well, which is cool.  We do all sorts of races and stuff together…I love it.
The next highlight of my running was when Jake got me my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers as an early birthday present, in May.  I was running in them the first day I got them and never ever went back to conventional running shoes (and probably never will).

Couldn't have made it this far without these guys. 125 of my 200 miles to date are on these shoes.

Shortly after that I began training for my first race, a four-miler in the end of August.  Early August was the first time I ever ran more than 2 miles in one go:

Three miles–my longest run yet! I ran the first mile, and then alternated running and walking for the other two.
I love the way I feel when I sit down after a hard run–my muscles feel loose and tired and my lungs feel so open. It feels so good to just breathe slow and deep (once I actually catch my breath from the running part!)

It was also right around that time that I hit my first major milestone: 100 miles.  And then came my first race.

My first race ever!
This morning’s Fun Run certainly lived up to its name. Couldn’t have asked for better weather–overcast, 70 degrees, slight misty rain for part of the time. It was super windy too, which I loved except for the half when I was trying to run against it.
I’m not terribly pleased with how it went, time-wise. But now I know what to shoot for at next week’s race–55 minutes. I don’t care if it kills me, but I’m going to go at least one minute faster next time. Today’s goal was just to finish, which I did easily, so my next goal is to improve.

A week after my first race, I ran my second.  This was was four miles again, but it felt a lot bigger because there were >4,000 runners as opposed to the <200 I’d run with the week before.  But it was lots of fun.

Great race, had lots of fun (: The 4-miler I ran last week took me 56 minutes, so this week I made it my goal to do at least one minute better than last week…which I did 😀 4 minutes, actually.
Sometime during mile 2 my ankle started to ache, and it was pretty bad…I found myself wondering if I should keep on running or take it easy and walk the rest of the way. I decided I’d keep pushing, and while my ankle gave me trouble for the whole rest of the race, the pain went away as soon as I crossed the finish line and slowed down. So I don’t know what that’s about.
Anyway, this morning was great 😀

Then a month later came Warrior Dash Virginia–the most fun I’ve ever had at a race.  And we’ve got plans to do another in May, so I’m excited about that.

The Warrior Dash was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Okay, not really…but it was definitely up there.

Then in November came the double digits.  I distinctly remember when I first began running, thinking to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever be one of those people who runs like five miles, or maybe even ten!”  Like it was some huge distant thing that I could never do.  Well, I did it:

Perceived effort on a scale of 1 to 5: a million.
My first double digit run, and I gave it everything I had. It was terrible. I’m in pain. But it feels so good! I love this.
However, I think I’ll just plateau at the 10-mile distance for a while until I can complete it without waddling or collapsing.

The day after my ten mile run, one of my best friends, Noah, mentioned to me that he was doing a half marathon in December…and I couldn’t sit there and let him do it by himself, so I told him I’d sign up too.  Impulsive?  Absolutely.  Signing up for a half marathon that’s three weeks away?  I must be crazy to do something like that.  But we got Jake to sign up too, and we made it happen.  I was so proud of Noah, of Jake, and of myself.  I never ever in a bajillion years would have thought I would run 13.1 miles (even if it did take me three hours…minor detail).

I’ve never enjoyed a race like I enjoyed this one. Jake and I stuck together for most of it and just goofed off and had a good time. I mean, it’s not like I actually had any chance of winning anything…so why take myself so seriously? We just had fun. Noah, on the other hand, smashed it. 1 hour 49 minutes. He’s ridiculous like that.
My muscles aren’t nearly as sore as I’d thought they’d be…tomorrow might be a different story though.

After the half, I took a nice long break from running.  For a couple of days I was too sore to even walk, and then for like two weeks after that I was too sore to run.  Then I went to Africa, started back to school, and now here I am.  I’m back into running regularly.  Four days ago I ran my first ten-miler since the half marathon, and while it still nearly killed me, I found it easier than last time.

It simply blows my mind that in less than a year, I went from killing myself to run for two minutes straight, to completing a half marathon.  I can now confidently call myself a runner.  I’m finding that running isn’t so hard anymore.  I’m watching my body change, my jeans get looser, and my calf muscles get tighter.  And most of all, I’m learning to enjoy it.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Running

 

Blue and Gray Half Marathon

You know, if you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be running a half marathon, I wouldn’t have believed you.  All my life I’ve been slightly on the pudgy side, hated running and pretty much anything else active, and had no desire to strive to become a better person–especially not when it hurts.
But look what I did today.  I ran 13.1 miles.  And loved it.
I am not who I was a year ago.

Today Jake and Noah and I woke up at five in the morning, threw on our running clothes, and headed out.  We arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare, so we picked up our race packets and wandered about for a bit before deciding to run across the street to WalMart to buy gloves and use a bathroom with no line.
Running to and from WalMart was a great warm up, and we arrived back at the starting line just in time to head out.  We took it slow at first, finding our pace.  Noah went up ahead, because he’s super legit and fast and stuff, and Jake and I hung back and stayed pretty chill.  Jake is super legit and fast too, but he stuck with me for the majority of the race just because it was more fun that way.
We weren’t even through the second mile yet when I got a killer side stitch.  The worst one I’ve ever had.  I’m quite prone to side stitches, but usually they’re mild and short.  But this one was awful–I couldn’t breathe, could barely walk, and it lasted for probably 20 minutes.  Usually digging my fingers up under my ribcage helps, but even that didn’t work.  So we lost a good bit of time there.
But finally the side stitch faded and I was able to get back into a steady pace.  There was this guy in front of us wearing a blue shirt and blue Vibram shoes, and Jake said to me, “We’re going to beat that guy, right?”  So we picked up the pace a bit to overtake him, and kept up that pace until we’d put some distance between us and him.  And for most of the race, he kept up pretty well.  We stayed ahead of him the whole time, but he was always in view.  At least, until about mile 8 or so.  Then we lost him.  By the time I could see the finish line, he was nowhere to be seen.
The course was beautiful.  We ran a little ways through the shopping centre, then along a main road for two miles or so before veering off onto a footpath past a river, which was really pretty, albeit somewhat swampish.  Then we ran up through quite a bit of residential area with quaint, old-fashioned houses and such, and then around a track before heading back the way we came.
For the entire race I was saving up my energy.  I had decided right from the beginning that I was going to have a strong finish.  No matter how hard the rest of the race was, I was going to sprint the last bit and go all out across the finish line.  That’s what I do for all my races.  No matter how much it hurts, walking across the finish line is unacceptable.  Anything short of all I’ve got is unacceptable.
So my goal had been to finish in under three hours.  And for most of the race, it was looking like that would happen.  But somewhere in the last couple of miles I hit a wall and slowed way down.  I had to decide which was more important to me: meeting my time goal, or finishing strong.  There was no way I’d be able to do both.
So I decided to scrap my time goal.  I was bummed, but that’s just the way it had to be.
So I jogged the last two miles, walked a bit, and as soon as the finish line was in view I broke into a mad sprint.  I was giving it all I had, and it hurt so badly, but the feeling of sprinting across that line was one of the best feelings in the world.  Even though by that point I was so tired that sprinting was barely faster than a casual jog.  But it felt like sprinting, so that was good enough for me.  That was the strong finish I’d been looking forward to the whole time.
I received my finisher’s coin, had a nice drink of some healthy organic gatorade-wannabe that I got for free from work a few days ago, then headed to lunch where I stuffed my face with fish and vegetables.
All in all, a good day.
Now I hurt.  A lot.  Mainly my hips, ankles, and the bottoms of my feet.  Apparently pounding 13 miles of pavement in next-to-barefoot shoes is not the best for your soles.  But whatever.  And my right ankle…oh my gosh, it’s killing me.  But it’s the good kind of pain.  It’s the “I did something awesome” kind of pain.
Tonight it’s my joints.  Tomorrow it’ll be my muscles.  But I sure love this feeling.
Thirteen miles and change.  Three hours, ten minutes.  Two very sore feet.  One awesome day.
And what’s awesome is that today’s thirteen miles makes for a total of 100 miles on this pair of running shoes.  They’ve been through a lot with me.  Favourite running shoes ever!

So what’s next, you ask?
Well, obviously now that I’ve done the half, the whole will have to follow.  You can’t just stop at a half.  Or, at least, I can’t.  So…I’m moving out of the country in June, and the full marathon will come sometime before that.  Not sure when.  Not sure how.  But it’s going to happen.  Training will start ASAP…but in the meantime, I sleep.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Running

 

You’re not officially a runner until

you run a double-digit run.

I can’t remember who said that…maybe it was a running blog I read, or maybe it was one of my friends on DailyMile.  I don’t know.  But anyway, I read that back when I still considered 3 miles a ‘long run.’  And I said to myself, ‘It would be so cool if I were able to run double digits! Too bad I’ll never be able to.”

Well, today I ran 10 miles.

I woke up at 7:00 on a Saturday morning (now that’s dedication) and bundled up in layer after layer of running clothes to shield me from the 20-degree, windy morning air.
Then I headed out.
The frustrating thing about running is that I am only allowed to run in my neighbourhood.  So I ran the big loop six times and the little loop once.  It was tedious to say the lease, and I don’t do well with tedium.  But Awolnation made a nice soundtrack and kept me somewhat entertained.
So it took me a bit to warm up on the first lap, and I was really slow and had a somewhat old-person-ish stride at first.  But by the time I finished the first 1.5-mile lap, complete with all the killer hills, I’d warmed up enough to shed my outer layer of clothes, and my stride was a little smoother.
Of course, by the end of the run I had reverted back to the old-person stride again.  Actually, to call it old-person-ish is being a little too generous…it was more of a waddle.  I was in so much pain.
But it felt so good!  Why do I so love to torture myself like this?

The longest I’d ever run before today was 6 miles.  So 10 was really pushing it.  It took everything out of me.  By the middle of the tenth mile I was seriously beginning to wonder if my legs were physically capable of carrying me the rest of the way.
They were, of course.  The body is capable of so much more than we give it credit for.
I hadn’t really, truly pushed myself in quite a while.  So it felt good to do it today.  On a perceived effort scale of 1 to 5, I’d rate it at about a million.  But it was awesome.

My tendinitis is coming back.  At least, I think that’s what it is…It sure feels like it, a dull, achy pain and tenderness on my Achilles tendon right above my heel.  I’d had this same problem a couple of months ago, but then it cleared up…until today.
So I don’t know what it is or what to do about it.  It might just be fatigue from running such a distance.  I really hope that’s all it is.  But it hurts.

So anyway, I’m officially a real runner now.  I’m pretty happy about this.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Running

 

Warrior Dash 2011

Before...

The ten of us (Me, Jake, Joy, Noah, Dave, Micah, Tovah, Trevor, Sue, Jamie) met up at Cici’s Pizza in Charlottesville to stuff our faces with carbs before the race, and then we headed off to Richmond.

When we got there, we went to park, and we drove past all these people plastered with mud and looking utterly exhausted, and I thought to myself, “that’s what I’m going to look like in a little while.”  I had been pretty excited all day, but it wasn’t until then that I really started to get psyched.  We went and got our race packets and pinned our numbers on, then got in line at the start of the race.  (Tovah and Trevor held our stuff for us…they’re the best!)

With a mighty, warrior-like roar, the pack surged forward.  Joy and I stuck together and took our time, just having fun and not really worried about speed.  Maybe about a mile into the race was the first obstacle, the Barricade Breakdown, which was basically jumping (or in my case climbing) over barricades and then sliding under barbed wire.  After that was a little more running and the second obstacle, which was a bunch of tires hanging from ropes that we had to push through.  I got bashed in the face several times.  It was awesome.

Then more running followed by the third obstacle, rows of junk cars that we had to clamber over.  Since we were one of the last waves to go through this obstacle, the cars were coated with a nice thick layer of mud, making them slippery and somewhat frightening.  But we made it through and ran on to the next obstacle, which was like horizontal cargo nets that we had to crawl over, and that was really fun.

Next, when I was beginning to get hot and sweaty, was the first water obstacle.  We had to cross through nasty, murky neck-deep water and climb over giant logs, and that was really fun and the water felt good after all the running.  We got through there and headed on to the Teetering Traverse, which was a lot easier and more lame than I’d expected.  There wasn’t much special about it…the name gave me the impression that we’d have to run across see-saws or something, but it wasn’t.

Then came the most terrifying obstacle: the Deadman’s Drop.  I had to climb up a ladder to a wall maybe fifteen feet off the ground, and the wall was at a slant so every time I tried to get over it I kept sliding back off, and I nearly fell once and had a heart attack.  When I finally got over the wall I grabbed onto it and lowered myself down so I could just let go and fall to the ground.
The next obstacle was slightly less terrifying but required a lot of upper body strength, which I haven’t really been working on lately so I didn’t know if I could do it.  But it ended up being easy; I grabbed onto a rope and used it to scale a fifteen-foot (I think) wall and climb down the other side, and then we ran some more.

The next obstacle wasn’t much of an obstacle; we just had to run through waist-deep water for a good while.  It felt so good to be in the water with no gravity, because by now my ankle had been hurting me for a while.
Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight, but we had to traverse three more obstacles before we got there.  The first one was a cargo net which we had to climb up and over, and the second was rows of fire that we had to jump over, and then the last one was where the mud came in: we had to jump into a knee-deep mud pit and slither underneath barbed wire.

When Joy and I got out of the mud pit, we were thoroughly coated with slimy, gritty mud.  It was awesome.  We met up with the others and took a group photo.

And After.

Then we went and jumped into the lake to get the mud off.  After we were clean (relatively speaking) we headed out to find a place to put dry clothes on and get something to eat.  We ended up at Subway, where we stuffed our faces again.  And I changed into my other clothes, which felt so good because wearing muddy, wet clothes when it’s 50 degrees and windy isn’t much fun.

So that was that.  This was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had at a race, and we’ll definitely be doing it again next year.

My race number and finisher's medal.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Running

 

Warrior Dash Tomorrow!

Heck yes.  3.5 miles of blood, sweat, and MUD.  Lots of it.

This will be my third race (the other two were road 4-milers) and my very first Warrior Dash, so I’m pretty stinking excited.  I love running, I love mud, I love my friends, and tomorrow will be packed full of all of those things!  I’ve already laid out my outfit (complete with my VFF’s, of course!) and signed my waiver, so now all that’s left to do is get there.

I’m a little bit apprehensive because lately I’ve been having left ankle pain (we think it’s tendinitis but I haven’t seen the doctor about it yet) that comes on if I try to run anything more than a mile.  So I haven’t been doing much running at all over the past couple of weeks, just a mile here or there because that’s all I can manage due to the excruciating pain.  So I’m hoping that taking it easy has given my ankle time to work itself out, but I’ll be popping some ibuprofen before the Dash just in case.

I have a couple of friends who’ve done the Warrior Dash, and looking at their pictures on facebook has gotten me all psyched up.  I can’t wait!  The weather should be great–cloudy with a high of 60, perfect running weather in my opinion.  And I’m doing it with my favourite people in the world, so we’re going to have a lot of fun.

I’ll definitely be blogging about how the Dash goes, and hopefully putting up some pics if I can, so check back soon for that.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Running

 

My First Race Ever!!!1!11

Today I ran my first race, a 4-miler.  Well, it was actually a Fun Run, but I guess you could call it either one.  I call it a race because it makes me feel more legit.
I didn’t sleep too well last night because I was at first too excited to sleep, but then as I lay awake and thought of the race I began to be more worried than excited.  What if I was the last person to finish?  What if I couldn’t even finish at all?  What if I hated every second of it?
Well, I can tell you that none of those things happened.  I finished in 66th place, I did indeed finish the full four miles, and I loved it.  So there.

I awoke at 5:16 this morning and got dressed, brushed my teeth and the like.  Then I had a breakfast of a hard-boiled egg and a piece of bread with peanut butter (sort of a big deal, seeing as I never eat bread, but I needed the carbs.  Not entirely unlike Michael Scott and his fettuccine alfredo--only his didn’t end well.) and then we

Pre-Race Stretching

were on our way.
We hung out at the starting line for a while because the race didn’t start until 7:45.  So we took a long time to stretch out and warm up, and then we watched my little sister run the kids’ Mad Dash (a loop around the parking lot, so cute!) and she rocked it.
Then came time to line up.  My brother, Jake, and I found ourselves at about the middle of the pack, which was more or less where I stayed for the duration of the race (he went on to smash the race and finish in 14th place) and we began to run.
I took the first mile nice and slow to get warmed up; the wind was blowing at my back and I felt good.  The sky was full of thick, grey clouds and I knew it could rain at any second.
It did–somewhere in my second mile it began to sprinkle, and it never did rain any harder than that.  It was more of a mist than a rain, really, but it felt good on my face.
By now I was starting to tire.  I was really dragging.  My chest was aching and my legs burned, but I kept going–albeit rather slowly.  Soon mile 3 was out of the way and I had only one more left.
The rain had since stopped and I was pretty hot and sweaty, but I got an ice cold refill on my water bottle at the turnaround and that helped.  With just under a half mile to go, my brother came back around (he’d already finished) to run the last bit with me, and when we started closing in on the finish line I summoned every last bit of energy I had and sprinted it.

Finishing felt so good.  I threw my hands in the air, took a deep breath, and gave a shout of victory.  I think it went something like “It smells like cow manure here!”  I donned my finisher’s medal (a strand of bright pink mardi gras beads) and grabbed a fresh bottle of water before heading to the pavilion to hang out and eat some of the fruit that had been provided for the participants.
After the race we went and stuffed our faces with eggs and toast and corned beef hash and chocolate milk–oh, glorious chocolate milk!–and headed home.

So how do I feel?  Great!  I feel like I could do it all over again right now.  Well, I do have a bit of an ache in my right knee, but that happens all the time so I’m not too worried about it.
Ask me how I feel again tomorrow morning and my answer will probably be a lot different, though.

What about my performance?  To be honest, I’m not thrilled.  I mean, four miles in 56 minutes is really not very fast at all.  But I’m not going to beat myself up over it, because this was my first race and the fact that I did it at all is enough for now.
Today’s goal was just to finish.  But my next goal will be to improve.  I have another 4-miler a week from today, and my goal will be to run that one in 55 or less.  I don’t care if it kills me, I’m going to run my next race at least one minute faster than I ran this one.  Mark my words.

That being said, this Fun Run really lived up to its name.  I got out there, pushed myself, tried something new, and had a good time.  And that’s what it’s about.

After the Race

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2011 in Running

 
 
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