Archive | May, 2013

WIN

15 May
Taken midstride. Key Bridge connects Arlington to Georgetown. Running it without being blown off is its own accomplishment.

Taken midstride. Key Bridge connects Arlington to Georgetown. Running it without being blown off is its own accomplishment.

 

Win. Such a fun word, because it symbolizes hard work that has impacted an outcome. It’s a simple way of saying “It was worth it”. That is how I have felt each day for the last week and a half as I write the word WIN next to my workout plan each day. Whether it was a 5 mile long run, or just following through with the promise to my body to take the day off, I have won every day for the last 10 days. My diet has been another story, but let’s stick to the positives, shall we? This past Sunday I tried to run my heart out on the windiest of days, through a 5-mile loop to Georgetown. This run is killer because the last 2 miles or so are peppered with very steep hills. I don’t consider myself an advanced enough runner to do specific “hill workouts” and I generally try to avoid hills at all costs, but in Arlington, they are simply unavoidable. The cool thing about sticking with a workout plan for the first time ever, and really pushing myself to run fast, is that I’m actually seeing results. I ran with my coworker yesterday and we decided to do a quick 3 miles, and she said we ran much faster than we did last week when we attempted the same run. I feel myself getting stronger, and running with a partner yesterday made me realize something that made me proud and ashamed all at once: I’m starting to listen to my breathing and pay attention to the rhythm of my footfalls and arm pumps. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you ever pick up a Runner’s World or any other running magazine, you will read all of the pro-runners babbling on about not listening to music because they want to listen to their bodies, or some nonsense like that. I always scoff, roll my eyes, and flip the page. I don’t have time for that kind of pretentious judgment about the fact that I literally need Britney Spears in order to finish a run. But yesterday was different. I didn’t have music, because that would have been rude to Alison, but we were also running too fast to talk. I started to hear an almost musical rhythm between my breaths and my feet hitting the ground, and it was like a mantra, telling me to keep pushing. It was very cool. I don’t plan on running solo without music any time soon, but I do plan on keeping the volume low enough that I can still feel that rhythm.

I’ve never been in such a good place with running, and I hope I can keep writing WIN next to my workouts for months to come.

 

Now If Only I knew Where to Find the Yemen…

11 May

Tonight I had the unique and treasured opportunity to spend time alone. I’m a weird mix of introvert and extrovert, so a night like this is perfect for me to reset. Right as I settled in to my night of solitude, I started thinking of the people in town I could call to make plans with. One of my most infuriating traits, I am NEVER satisfied. If I’m alone, I want to be with people; when I have plans, I pout in my head about how nice it would be to sit around and do nothing. When things stay the same, I crave change; when I make a move, I totally freak out.

After I stashed away my thoughts of making plans for the night, I curled up onto my couch for some relaxation and TV watching. But the sun was still out, and I think all the running lately has made it difficult for me to veg out for hours at a time. I decided to take a stroll by myself, with no particular destination or purpose. Last night Blair’s friend Matt texted me about a band he’s been listening to lately called Lord Huron. They will be playing at Bonnaroo and he suggested I give them a listen (and this is why you make the decision not to be a hipster, but to have hipster friends to tell you about good music without being a stuck up snob that wears a fedora to be ironic). They’re this cool mix of folksy-rock (that’s a very technical term for you non-hipsters), and I put them on as I walked around Arlington by myself. As I type, I realize this reads like a very depressing post, but I felt happy as I took my stroll alone. I moved here in a blur and immediately disliked my job and started stressing about money. I haven’t taken the time to appreciate the things Arlington has given me that Philly couldn’t. I can walk to the metro to take into the city whenever I want. I have a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s just minutes away in one direction, and a Target in another. I feel safe everywhere I go (within reason), and have already hiked and run to beautiful places right in town.When I want to go some place, I go, with no fear of not being able to find parking when I get back. I have a gym equipped with the only equipment I really need, and it’s two buildings away from me. For some reason, it’s been so easy to forget why the idea of living here appealed to me so much. But tonight I remembered, and it felt nice.

When I got back I put on a movie that I had DVR’d only because I had heard decent things about it during Oscar season,┬áSalmon Fishing in the Yemen. It’s quirky, so I liked it immediately. It was very slow moving and dry, the perfect movie to cozy up to on your couch with some week-old Chardonnay (yikes, don’t tell anyone). There was moment, and I can’t even remember what was happening in the movie, but I’m sure it was something uplifting, when I thought to myself, “I’m going to be okay. My life is going to be okay”. There are some people in this world who would find that quote to be utterly ridiculous, because they’ve never had any thoughts to the contrary. I’m very happy for those people, and at some point would like the chance to punch them in the face. For the rest of you humans, I am sure you can empathize with that one moment, that brief second in a world of chaos when you hear a song, or look out a window, or do anything that causes a ripple, or even possibly a long breeze of calmness and relief to wash over you. It doesn’t have to last long, and I’m sure by tomorrow when I’m at work on a rainy Saturday I will have forgotten all about it, but in that moment, I remembered myself. It felt really good. If I had given in to my characteristic need for company and called someone to hang out with me, I wouldn’t have had my little epiphany with the fish. I can’t predict how I’ll feel tomorrow, or next week, but just like the days that I plan for 4 miles and actually run 4 miles, today goes down as a WIN ­čÖé

Woes of the Forever Novice

6 May

run

In the last three years, I have run two half-marathons, one 10-miler, and a handful of 5k’s. At the start of each I have only two goals: 1.) Finish (obviously) 2.) Run straight through without walk breaks (Not as easy, but usually doable with the exception of bathroom and water breaks). It’s always seemed just a little too risky to add any other goals. I’m in good enough shape that finishing the race in any mount of time is not just low-risk, it’s no-risk. While this mindset saves me from any possible disappointment on race day, (after all, who wants to feel disappointed after running 13 miles?!) it also has become a barrier to progress. Every so often, I buy Runner’s World magazine (I really should just give in a get a subscription), and I immediately flip to the novice section. I could skim the experienced runner articles but there are always weird words/phrases like “fartlek”, and “tempo runs”, I mean how am I supposed to know if I’ve run 400 meters if I’m not on a track? These articles usually discuss time splits, which is a slippery slope into the world of racing for a time. No, no, I’ll stay in my safe beginner’s zone, thank you very much. You can keep your hoity┬átoity┬áheart rate watches, I’ll just keep jogging over here.

The problem is, the novice articles focus on just “getting out there”; there are countless “Work Your Way Up to a 3-Mile Run” plans with a 2 minute run/1 minute walk format. I’m not fast and I don’t have great stamina, but I can run 3 miles straight with no problem. And so I find myself in an uncomfortable position. After running 4 days this week, including a 5 miler with Blair yesterday, I’ve come to realize that I want more. Maybe it’s time to make a race goal beyond just completing the race. I want to be fast. But mostly, I want progress, improvement. At a time in my life when I’m desperately searching for a career I want with little success, this could be my time to step it up, train harder, take a risk. I could apply for a hundred jobs over the next couple of months and not get so much as an interview, and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it. However, I’m willing to make a bet on myself that if I focus and push for the next month, I can speed up and increase my stamina. I don’t have to rely on outside factors, it’s all me. I still plan on reading the novice section, but I’m not going to let advanced training techniques intimidate me any more. It’s pretty scary, especially given that I’m not feeling so hot about my professional life, to think of trying and failing, but I’m hopeful for a big pay-off. It’s like when you lose some weight, and your clothes are starting to feel loose, but you can’t decide if you’re ready to take the plunge and buy the smaller size. It should be a no-brainer that you will sustain this weight loss, and maybe even lose more, but┬áthere’s always that mean little voice in your head that says you’re going to start eating badly and not working out.┬áIt’s time to tell that mean voice to get lost.

One of the articles I read this month focused on the mental aspect of running, and how pessimistic thinking is a top roadblock for runners of all levels. I myself struggle with this every single time I run. An interesting idea I picked up from the article is to rate each day as a win/loss, fitness-wise. A win could be running 5 out of the 5 miles you planned on running, and a loss may be a day that you were supposed to rest but you couldn’t help getting in a 30 minute cross training session (If my plan says rest, I have no trouble resting, so this is not an issue for me!). The point is to look back on your week and realize that the individual days don’t matter as much as the collective effort. Coming off a loss one day, doesn’t mean the next day can’t be a win, and the goal is to have more wins than losses. I plan on rating each of my days this week and I’ll see if it boosts my positive thinking juices while I run. The next step will be signing up for a race so I can put myself out there and see how my training pays off. Any suggestions?