Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Run 7: "You look very 'Girl With the Pearl Earring.'"

The good news: I survived my first Oxy Alumni Reunion Weekend!  Worked 12 days straight, three of which were 17 hours in a row, and not only did I NOT get sick, I was still mildly functional in work the following week!

The bad news: I got in zero runs in two weeks.

I could have should have gotten up early and at least done my midweeks, but it was hard to be motivated when I was leaving the office at 8 pm on a nightly basis.  I knew I wasn't getting in my long run on Saturday of reunion weekend, which really should've been the ass-kicker I needed, but I didn't.
That made run numero 7 that much scarier.

We were getting to practice earlier than usual, and we'd be running our longest distance thus far - 8 miles.  I had missed hill practice the week before and sent a mildly panicked email to Coach Dee Dee expressing my worry about this 8 miler.  She kindly reminded me that I did the right thing (sleeping instead of running after a crazy week of work) and to basically STOP WORRYING.  One of these days I will actually listen to that advice.

Look at all of those smiles at 6:30 a.m.!  That's dedication.

I am beyond thankful that we started as early as we did.  By 7:30 it was getting warm, and the lack of shade at Balboa Park was felt the entire time.  Since my mileage is only getting longer, I thought I'd spend this week giving fuel gels a try, just to see if I liked them better than the Honey Stingers or Gu Chomps.  I brought a pack of margarita flavored Clif Shots juuuust in case.  Better safe than sorry, right?

I should've known this wasn't my bag when it took me 5 minutes to actually open the gel pack.  Even with my teeth it was a struggle.  I'm not sure what I was actually expecting the consistency to be like - Jello, maybe? - but it was AWFUL.  Green apple (not even the sour kind, just the boring regular fake flavored green apple) and it was HOT.  I have tried, for over a week now, to come up with what to compare the texture to, and the only thing I can think of is gravy.  Disgusting, right?  Gravy is amazing when its gravy and made with turkey fat and flour, not when its green apple flavored and yet also the temperature of your body.  Gross, gross, gross.  Glad I figured this out now and not on race day!  #trusttheprocess

I'm not going to lie - I was feeling every one of those days I hadn't run.  I usually hit my stride and don't need a lot of motivation to cover the miles, but this day I was slacking.  My feet felt like bricks, I had completely forgotten about my walk form, and I was tempted to stop and take photos every few minutes to give myself something to distract me from feeling so heavy.

"Don't wait for me!" - Me.
Some of our teammates were only doing 5 miles since they are training for the Nike Women's Half in San Francisco and that's a full month and a half after Disneyland.  I was given the option to also do 5, and was VERY, VERY TEMPTED.  I thought about it for a while; how nice it would be to wrap up, foam roll, drink some chocolate milk and get in the shade.  But then I had thought about how, a few weeks before, I missed practice due to an ill-informed decision to drink one margarita the night before, and how annoyed I was at myself.  I spent the morning feeling guilty and dumb and had a severe case of FOMO - so much so that Nancy actually tagged me in the team photo from that practice even though I wasn't there.  I decided I'd just keep going until I literally physically couldn't.

I ended up running with Nancy and another Disneyland participant, Julie, who was in my pace group.  We talked race outfits and Disney course support and the Sad bus, and both agreed that we would run together on race day and take photos with every character we saw.  It made the last few miles fly by, and we even stopped to take at least one photo.

Julie and I sprinted towards the team tunnel at the finish and I had never been more excited to actually finish a run.  When Nancy checked her watch, and I checked my RunKeeper, we realized we went a wee bit further than the 8 miles we were supposed to run:

Almost 9 miles?  I'll take that!  RunKeeper also gave me this nice boost of confidence:

Even though I'm really just competing with myself, it was a great feeling knowing I had reached a goal that seemed so far away just mere weeks ago.  I also had to recognize that I did have the option of getting out and running 5 miles, and I'm so glad I didn't.  I didn't hurt that bad afterwards (nothing some foam rolling couldn't fix!) and Julie came through with some chocolate milk at the end which was exactly what I needed.

If I can run 9 miles, I can run this half marathon.  Bring it on, Disney!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lessons from the Road: No NASCAR for me.

  • A Friday night margarita is not, unfortunately, carb-loading.
  • Powerade Gels probably both taste like and have the same texture as Nickelodeon Slime.  They are made exponentially worse when they've sat in your hydration belt for an hour in 90 degree heat.  Does anyone want my collection of gels?  (No offense to anyone who likes them!)
  • I have come to the realization that I would not, in fact, make a great race car driver.  I can not run the same loop over and over.  It bores me to absolute tears.  RIP, NASCAR career.
  • My Instagram feed is now 1/3 friends, 1/3 Disneyland, and 1/3 pro/novice runners, bloggers and running gear feeds.  This both excites and also scares me.  WHO AM I?!
  • Whenever I come across a puddle on a run, I have a long internal argument - run through, cool down and get blisters, or slow down, avoid, and stay hot?  Still up for debate.
  • I still cannot drink red Gatorade.  Thanks, Labor Day Alcohol Poisoning 2006!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Run 5: Why do they call it "Big Daddy"?

I realize I have a lot of blogging catch up (blog-up?) to do as I've been MIA for the past few weeks.  I can't promise the wait will be worth it, but I will definitely try to bring everyone myself up to speed.

Training Week 5 found us at the lovely and historic Rose Bowl Stadium, meeting up with the SGV team to run "6 miles."  (6 miles is in quotes for a specific reason, but I will get to that later.)  I was looking forward to running in a new location, as I've learned that I get bored quickly running the same route over and over, and because we were getting treated to walk coaching by the legendary Chuck Fowler.

Don't tell this man that power walking isn't a sport.
 Chuck is a Team In Training legend, and his talk is powerful.  His life story is beyond comprehension, and I am certainly not doing it justice by briefly mentioning it here, but he has survived both Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer, and found race walking to be his venue back into athleticism.  He has been with the program since 2003, first as a participant and now as a coach, and he is very, very motivating.

After a brief training session in proper walk form, we were off to run.  There were only a handful of my teammates that showed, and thankfully Kelsey, one of my favorite mentors, was one of them.  We ran with an SGV assistant coach, and a participant named Ana, who's son had just been cancer free for a week.  This admittedly kept my perspective in check the majority of the course.

If you've never had the luxury of going to the Rose Bowl, it is in a really lovely part of Pasadena.  It's also really, really, REALLY freakin' hot.  It sits in the middle of a valley and is sparsely shaded.  I have been there for both the LA Food Truck Festival as well as the famous Rose Bowl Flea Market and in the warmer months, it is a nightmare temperature-wise.  By the time we started to run, it was almost 8 am and therefore probably close to the high 80s.

To anyone who trains in Arizona, I applaud you.

Before we started our run, one of the coaches briefly went over the route.  In retrospect, I'm glad we were running with one of the assistant coaches because I barely paid attention and had no clue where I was going.  I did, however, catch her mentioning something called "Big Daddy."  What the hell?  What is "Big Daddy"?  Is this some Adam Sandler reference I'm not getting?  Not a single SGV participant balked at this, and she brushed it off like it was a small nuisance so I went back to fiddling with Instagram and didn't think much of it.

That is, of course, until we reached "Big Daddy."

Big Daddy is a steep, switchback climb near the reservoir about halfway through this run.  It is dirt and rock and is about 120ish feet in less than half a mile.  Anyone who can run up this thing is probably half gazelle and not human.  My pace dropped from a 15 minute mile to a 30 min mile because I had no choice but to hike it.  I would have taken a photo but I was too busy keeping my arms available in case I had to rappel upwards.

There was a strategically placed water stop at the top (THANK GOODNESS) and someone with puppies which always brightens my mood.  I could have easily sat there for 20 minutes, but Kelsey kindly reminded me that I needed to move my ass so we could get this over with.  We were only halfway done.  Ugh.

After a quick out and back to a large, random, dirt hole (I don't know how else to describe it) we headed back down Big Daddy.  Because I am a running genius, I thought this would be the appropriate time to pour water on my head.  I didn't, however, tilt my head back far enough, and thus pushed sunscreen and sweat straight into my eyes.  Since we were already halfway down Big Daddy when it finally started to sting, I had no choice but to keep going, and keep my fingers crossed that I didn't misstep and fall down the side of this mountain, which probably would have hurt less than the sunscreen in my eyes.

After was seemed like a hot, never-ending eternity, we finished… and we weren't even the last ones.  It was at this point that Kelsey quietly mentioned to me that we actually ran almost 7 miles instead of 6.  Apparently our assistant coach was just as confused by the directions as I was, and we ran a little further than intended.  Had I known this while running, I would have definitely been whining about it the whole time, but since I found out afterwards?  Hell yeah!  That's the furthest I've ever run in one go in my LIFE!

Celebratory foam rolling!

To add to the celebration, I was also the winner of the 100 Friends; 100 Donations; 100 Hours challenge and raised a whopping $880 in a little over two days.  I couldn't believe it.  The outpour of support from so many corners of my life was incredible, including a handful of donations from people who barely know me, but were inspired by my efforts.  I don't know if I will ever get used to the rush of excitement and gratitude I feel whenever a donation is made towards my goal, especially because I know first hand that it is going to make such a huge impact.  It is the most glorious feeling and it makes the long, hot runs that much easier.

After the Rose Bowl Run (and surviving Big Daddy) I had a long moment of "I am so glad I took this chance."  Even when your job is to convince others that they can do this, its another ball game to put yourself into this position, especially when you are as out of shape as I was to start.  I was, and still am somewhat, plagued with worries - will I get injured? will I be unable to keep up? - but the teammates and now friends who I see each week have continually pushed me along and convinced me I will be just fine.

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