Saturday, March 14, 2009

Yes I can!

My run this Friday was something else! I had spent the entire morning guessing as to what pace I could run the 7 miles that have become my 1/2 marathon training grounds. Generally this route takes me almost exactly 60 minutes to finish. Throw in a minute or two of leg stretching along the course and perhaps I could get away with saying that I was making the run in 58 minutes. A bit over 8 min miles. I try to run at a pace that is comfortable and not to hard on my lungs or muscles. You need to recall or I need to remind you that normally I am out here to enjoy the experience, not break any land speed records. I save my push, or extra energy, until the last mile where I try to shift gears and complete my run with whatever I got left. When I'm done I feel spent and exhausted and I imagine that I have just ran through the finish line ahead of everyone else. You gotta have an imagination right? Anyways, I came to the conclusion sometime Friday morning that I was going to try and finish my route in 50 minutes. That's roughly 7 min miles. I figured that this was going to be a bit too hefty of a goal for myself but what's the harm in trying? I would be pleased with a time of fifty five minutes. Realistically I was thinking that the first two miles could be at a 7 mile pace but then I would fall off to an 8 or 9 min/mi pace. Well work ended, the dogs got fed and I strapped on my Mizunos. (shoes silly)
A 7 mile run in 50 minutes, was I really going to be able to do this? It may not seem like a fast pace to the average reader but I know (and I think other runners know) how difficult it can be to maintain a 7 min/mi pace throughout your entire run. Generally you want to try and conserve some energy in the first half and push for a faster second half.  Without over thinking this I figured I would run as hard as I could for 7 miles while always remembering that I needed some energy left for the last mile. So off I go!
Mile one, 7 min. "OH no, I feel way to tired to keep this pace up. My back hurts, my lungs are burning. Why did I eat those chocolate chips?" So much is going through my mind at this point and the 50 min goal seems so unattainable. I start thinking about how it is okay not to hit your goals. Just try again on another day. "I know, I could probably make it if I ate better and drank more water." Despite what I should have or could have done I found myself a mile into the run stareing at the glimmering Spring Lake. With each run I say to myself, "WoW, I am so lucky to have this backdrop." My path leads me over the top of a small dirt dam withholding Spring Lake from the valley below. The sun reflects of the lake and into my eyes, it's beautiful every time. Soon I find myself approaching the exit of the regional park where traffic awaits and the mental game begins.
See, when your running for a long distance your mind is going to take you for for a long journey as well. It is a great place to remember the name of an old friend or dig up some recently forgotten lyrics of your youths lost loves. Occasionally it's as if my body can shift into autopilot and my mind is free and clear. Add to this, you're breathing down clean, crisp, high octane air, "super fuel for the task at hand."The dirt parking lot marking mile two had a good number of cars soaking up the sun as their owners explored the park. I'm already thinking that going so hard through the first mile will have definitely hurt my mile two time. My watch disagreed! "14 minutes, is my mile two calculation right?" It is thanks to Google Maps and the distance calculator and I smile. Kinda hard to believe that I just kept running hard as my mind wandered through so many different spots. System analysis is that the front of my left calf hurts, the muscle not the bone, and I'm feeling a sharp ache or crap on my backs upper right corner. Nothing that's going to keep me from at least finishing my normal run. So I pull my head up and bring my shoulders back, "here we go!" 
Mile 2 to 3 is long and flat with oak trees, acacias, and pines watching form the sidelines as I glide on down the road. This would be a good spot for a short race or sprinting contest. Maybe even tricycle races around a course littered with kegs of beer and rowdy old friends. Not a chance I'm sprinting now but I have noticed that my stride is a bit longer than it normally is. My breathing is noticeable, but controlled and I've managed to forget about any nagging pains. Tall trees lean overhead and the smells of Santa Rosa leave the air. Postcards could be made here with a right eyes and photography equipment.  No matter though, I need to focus  this run. I set a goal and I need to figure out how to get there. "Can I make it? Here comes half way and I'm still moving pretty good. It doesn't hurt to breath and my hamstrings are only a bit tighter than before. I stop at the turnaround point and bend down to touch my toes as I glance at my watch.  " 24 minutes, I got time to stretch for a minute!" I always like to stretch out a bit at the half way point. It makes me feel refreshed and renewed, ready to take on the journey home. On a usual day I will stay here for two minutes or so limbering up. Today's not any normal day though. I think I have a shot at getting close to my goal. "Shit, I better get going!" 
On the way back I create a picture of the finish point in my head to remind myself of my next challenge. As I open up my gate and set my sights on where I started this adventure and decide on a line to get me home. "Yes I can!" Can I even finish at this pace? "Yes I can!" I repeat this mantra over and over again. Any time doubt begins to creep in I throw "Yes I can!" at it and push on. I have also made the decision that I am not going to look at my watch until I'm done. I'm just going to run as best I can from here on out and I'll not worry about anything else. Just run, smile, and wave at people. I love the way back because every memorable landmark marks my progress and the nearness of my goal. I think I'm doing pretty good and I can keep on going. "Here I come finish Line!"
To be continued...  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today was a good day!

Hi all! It has been a short week with many miles packed into it. Today I took a lonely 8.5 mile journey around the Tiburon Peninsula and loved every muscle aching and muscle cramping minute of it. With two days rest under my belt I was able to navigate around this secluded route in about 75-80 minutes. The road is narrow, and a few times I found myself jumping into the bushes to avoid being hit by that fast moving 911 with the cigar smoking driver. Some friendly bicyclists cheered me on as they cut up the mountain in there slick, tight fitting spandex. (The unofficial uniform of Marin County) Most of the time though no one says much to me as I run along my chosen paths. I guess there must be something unwelcoming about the solo runner sucking down huge amounts of lung filling air. I try, believe me,  to say hello, or at least give a friendly wave to those I see out pursuing their chosen activities but never get much of a response. Perhaps we are all just a bit too focused on the task at hand to realize, and or care about the guy running past us the other direction. Oh well! I'll keep on smiling and keep on waiving no matter what. Well, unless that Porsche circles back and takes me out! The last time I ran this route I was lucky enough to have a terrific running partner by my side who provided great conversation and proved to be a great person to share this breath taking run with. However, this time around life seems to have wanted me to experience it alone. Perhaps I am supposed to see that life will present itself in beautiful ways no matter its recent ups and downs. So I ran alone, and enjoyed the peacefulness of the moment. I took in the beautiful scenery and the fresh air and decided that today was a good day.
Well, until next time, keep running. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I run becuse...

A friend of mine once asked me "why the hell do you want to go running" and told me that "only an idiot would pay to go running with a bunch of other people". To this guy there is no reason to run. Cleaner arteries, a stronger heart, less weight burdening your body, all unfounded reasons I suppose.  Well, I say to you foolish man, I run because I like to , because it's healthy and because I can! 

I run because it puts me in control. I decide how far to go, how hard to run and what to think about while I'm running. No one else gets to control me. If I need a break, I take one. When I have to pee, I pee. If I want to stop and smell some pine needles then I'll stop and smell some. The route I take is only determined by my own limitations. It's just me out there, relying only on myself and counting only on myself. When else in life can we really say, "it's all up to me". At work we accomplish tasks for someone else. You are given parameters and guidelines,  like reins on a horse, that keep us moving in a predetermined direction. Some might argue that their job gives them the freedom to be creative and drive a business in the direction they want to go, but ultimately we are all looking over our shoulders hoping that what we do meets the approval of the big boss man or boss women. When we run we are truly free. Your mind, body, and soul are in charge, and no one can take that from you.

I also run because it is healthy for me. Sure, my knees hurt and the muscles ache, but isn't this just a small price to pay for the overall benefit we are receiving by stepping out for a run. Now don't get me wrong, I like a little tummy fat. I carry some around myself and perhaps a small love handle or two. But if you let that start getting out of hand your asking your body to carry an extra burden. Your asking your heart to work harder and with worse and worse equipment. Call me narcissistic if you want but I love seeing and feeling my bodies response to repeated exercise. Knowing that I am shaping myself, healing myself, and bettering myself is exhilarating! Throughout my entire childhood I absolutely hated and feared instances that were going to call for me to take my shirt off. Sure I loved to swim and would swim when I had the opportunity but I truly hated those moments between taking my shirt off and getting into the pool. By running I have began to improve my self image and self confidence. Sure I'm still hesitant to take the top off but at least now I am starting to get proud of the body I am creating. 

Lastly, although the reasons are endless, I run because I can. Running is simple, which is great for a simple guy like myself. No fancy bike is needed, no expensive car has to be fixed up and the only equipment I really need is a pair of shoes and something to cover my #*%!. Maintain your health and you can run forever. No flat tires, no blown head gaskets, no broken bats or gloves, just me and my body. Another one of my Friends used to always tell me how he wanted to start doing this or that, however there was always some excuse as to why he couldn't start today. "First I gotta  buy some pads", or "when I get the money I'm going to sign up for...". Well, unfortunately fate has taken away one of his legs and now most of what he was going to do is far out of reach both physically and mentally for him. (Yes he still could do anything he puts his mind to, that's not my point). He missed his best opportunity to do all that he wanted to do. That opportunity is today! I run because I can, right now without hesitation.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring, and if I wait now, I may have to wait forever.

If you need some motivation then email me and we can talk about running together. Although I love running alone their are huge, huge benefits to running with a partner. Until next time....GO RUN!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I smile when I'm running.

I went for my 7 mile run today just like on any other day. However, my every other day routine sorta slipped into a week of no running combined with a weekend of binge eating. My long time friend was in town whom has just recently received his prosthetic leg. A while back he was involved in a motorcycle accident but thankfully we still have him around today. The weekend was filled with emotional conversations and challenging mental obstacles for us all to try and work through. To say the least, we found some comfort through fatty foods like pizza, M&M's, sausages and beer. After the weekend was over, and my good friend had left (hopefully in better spirits then when he arrived) I had what I call a food hangover. My body felt gross, my stomach and intestines hurt and the last thing I wanted to do was go run. So, last night I decided that no matter the weather conditions or aches that my body may have I was going to go for a run. That was an easy decision last night (refer to previous blog posting) however this morning my body and bed were begging me to stay and sleep. No matter what they said though I was on my way out the door. 
Once out and running in the park my body began to remind me of all the junk I had put into it over the course of the last few days. Mile 1 reminded me that I had not stretched in a few days while miles 2, 3 and 4 were ugly reminders of the pizza and beer. Then as I saw another runner going the opposite direction I took note that he looked absolutely miserable. Head down, forehead all wrinkled up like he was just barley making it through his run. At that moment I remembered a little old trick of mine to help me get through these hard times. Smile! As soon as I put that first smile on my face I instantly forgot about the comfort foods and lack of exercise during the week before. Suddenly the air seemed fresh and the rain very welcoming. How could one little thing help so much.? Well by mile 5 the stomach reminded me that I should have taken better care of myself and now my limbs were beginning to hurt as well. Where did my smile go? It seems I must have let it slip away while splashing through a puddle or taking a branch to the shin. As I forced myself to use those muscles on my face once again I found that my pain seemed to slip away as easily as the smile had. This time however, I was determined to keep that smile there for as much of the rest of my run as I could. Every time I passed another jogger, or walker, I made sure that there was that big old Joey smile lighting up my face. By doing this I constantly reminded my body that I could beat the aches and pains it threw my way with a simple smile. My run was both exhausting and refreshing and I have a smile to thank for it. Next time your out on one of your trots around town, or strolls through the park try throwing a smile on that mug of yours and I'm sure you will notice a huge difference in the way your body feels during the run. Keep smiling and keep running!

To run or not to run?

Well, Mother Nature is at it again! The wind, the rain, the chill in the air. Running, through these conditions can be daunting and difficult. The ground is becoming soft and mushy under her relentless down pours and branches litter our jogging paths creating obstacles and hazards. Who wants to get up and drag themselves out into less than favorable conditions? I'm tired, it's cold, and my legs hurt! Well, with this focus Mother Nature will win every time
Running, and being part of the outdoor environment is something that comes natural to many people. Others of us, including myself, have to fight off that urge to crawl back into bed and then suffer through the wind and rain in hopes of getting or daily exercise. It seems at times that some of my friends must have been born while their mothers were running outdoors. Anytime I'm thinking of going for a run I notice that they are already out and having fun. Where do they get this drive, this energy and passion for running. Who knows, but perhaps I may have some helpful ideas as to how the rest of us can get out and enjoy our "EarthboundRunning" experiences.
First lets start with the decision making ordeal. Your mindset, rather our mindsets control our daily actions, moods and behaviors.  I decide the night before whether or not I am going to go out for a jog. I have found that all too often the body will pick staying in bed versus running if given the choice first thing in the morning. By determining today or tonight whether or not we will be running tomorrow we don't force ourselves to choose in unfavorable conditions. For example: you wake up in the morning and roll over to take a peak out the window and see that the sky is ominous and rain seems to be on the way. The tree branches are telling you that the wind is going to fight you and the pools of water all over the ground remind you how miserable your feet are going to be. When you roll back over, that warm blanket seems to nestle up under your chin and sing to you a sweet, sleepy lullaby that all but cancels any hopes of yours to make it outside. But what if the night before while you are warm and cozy enjoying a nice meal you decide whether or not you should go out for your run tomorrow.  You are comfortable and will continue to be for the rest of the evening. There are no immediate concerns about getting wet or being cold. Your mind is free and clear to decide what you really want to happen. And of course, we choose to go for a run! Making choices at times when outside factors won't affect your decesions will help you to make the right choices and help you stay on track with your running. Don't let Mother Nature get the best of you this season. Run when you want to and when you say you are going to, no matter what! Until next time, goodluck and remember, you run on your terms not the weathers.
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Santa Rosa, CA, United States
Currently trying to get better.