Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finger Pointing, Part II

This morning Nick and I got up at 5:30 (yes, AM) and did "hills".

It was 23 degrees when we started and the cold was shocking at first. Funny how quickly we are spoiled by 30 degrees. We ran for a mile and a half at a warm-up pace, then sprinted up a hill for 40 seconds and walked back down (which we repeated 7 times), then ran the mile and a half back home at a regular pace. The first three sprints were not so bad, I actually made it farthest up the hill on the third sprint. The fourth sprint reminded me that I am not actually a runner. The fifth and sixth sprint left me gasping for air and thinking that it would just be much faster to put a plastic bag over my head and breathe deep. I have to admit that I only walked three quarters of the way down the hill to start the seventh sprint so that I could end at the top. The run home felt like I was dragging lead legs through the snow and across the ice.

And I loved every minute of it.

On my quest to answer the question of how I became a running nut, I continue to point the finger of blame on those around me. It is much more satisfying than self exploration.

Guilty Party #3: Gale
Around the time I was exposed to Body for Life and innocently compared to an exceedingly obese woman by my daughter, my mother's friend Gale came for a visit. Gale and my mom are old school chums. This means Gale is the same age as my mom which would be too old for me to mention without permission. Gale has better legs than I do.

Gale's legs are not to blame for my running, however. I blame her slide show. She had just returned from an absolutely fabulous trek through France - thirty days of WALKING an old pilgrimage trail with some companions.


She had lovely photos of her trip as well as a montage of photos from a rafting trip she had been on recently in the states. Her plan was to rest at my parents for a week and then head off on another outdoor adventure. I enjoyed Gale quite a bit; she has a sparkling personality and is an amusing storyteller.

When Gale left, I couldn't help but think about retirement with Nick. We have both said we would like to travel and find adventure. I realized that retirement planning was going to mean a heck of a lot more than a 401k, IRA and stocks...hang on for the cheesy analogy...I was going to have to invest in myself.

Told you it was cheesy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Finger Pointing

I think I should rewind and explain why and how Nick and I are currently running as much/as far/as fast as we are. If you are already a runner, our much/far/fast numbers are not that impressive...but if you are anything like the real me, the me that I was just over six months ago...then our numbers are insane, impossible, unrealistic and deserve some illumination.

Six months ago I would have told you that you had suffered a psychotic break and that you were living in an alternate world if you had even suggested that I would soon be training for a marathon, running 12 miles at a time, and averaging an 11 minute mile. I may have even jokingly asked you to put down/pass me your crack pipe. I was a chubby bubby who loved good food and good wine. I was dating a wonderful man who loved me exactly as I was. I enjoyed being active, but did not like exercise. I had no reason to change.

So why did I change? How did I become a running addicted, marathon obsessed, exercise loving nut case? A simple chain of events, some well meaning but still very guilty friends & family, and my competitive ego formed the perfect transformation cocktail.

Let's review who is to blame for the bizarre metamorphoses Nick and I have experienced.

Guilty Party #1: Gia
Before I point the first finger of blame for my current running addiction on Gia, I would like to say that I really like her. Gia and I became friends a year and a half ago, after I started dating Nick. She had been the best friend of Nick's first wife, Michelle (who died from cancer). The fact that Gia was nice to me and that we became friends says a LOT for Gia's character - I can't help but think I wouldn't be so nice if my best friend Denece died and her husband George brought over a new girlfriend. Generally speaking, Gia is a better person than I am. It's not hard.

Anyhoodle. So I am up at Gia's house and she has this book "Body for Life" by Bill Phillips. The book explains a 12 week food and exercise plan designed to dramatically improve your body. Gia is showing it to me because she is going to follow the program. I try to shield my confusion, because I think that Gia already has a fabulous figure...but who am I to judge? http://bodyforlife.com/

Guilty Party #2: Dinky-T
My youngest daughter wants to look at the book. Mr. Phillips is pretty slick, his book smacks of an infomercial. The inside cover is chock-full of before and after pictures. Testimonial after testimonial of how everyday fat people transformed their body into rock hard, muscle-bound, you-can't-find-any-cellulite superstars. And my sweet little baby looks up at me with those big brown six year old eyes and says, "Look mommy," as she points to an extremely obese woman's before and after photos, "she's a chubby bubby, and if she can do it, so can you, because you're a chubby bubby."


I swore I could feel my abnormally high self esteem wither and die like a salt soaked slug in a matter of seconds. Why is it that when I am fat I don't really realize the full extent of my girth and when I am thin I still see fat? Does anyone else have the same dually warped body image issues? Mirrors that lie in both directions?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

12 Mile Run

Yesterday, Nick and I ran 12 miles. I know some of you have already heard this, as you were the recipient of a rushed, post-run, endorphin-high phone call. I am also fairly sure that several of you are growing weary of these phone calls and our complete inability to have a conversation that does not include running, but rest assured neither of these facts will deter our behavior.

Yesterday's run took 2 hours and 13 minutes. Nick and I conversed for some of the run, but I would guess that we were silent for about 1/2 of the run. Given our (deserved) reputation for being chatty people, an hour of silence between us is huge. A lot of things went through my head during this hour, and I figured that it might be fun to blog the random thoughts that occur to me while running.

Running in Anchorage in the winter brings certain factors that runners in warmer climates may never have to think about. We have become very adept at dressing for the temperature, following the advice I read in Marathoning for Mortals (Bingham, Hadfield) to dress for 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature and to expect to be cold walking out the door. We have developed a system using two to four layers depending on the temperature - our coldest run this winter was -20, requiring four layers top and bottom. It was 30 degrees when we started out yesterday, warm compared to most of our winter runs, and we both started with only two layers of clothing.

We started our run at Westchester Lagoon, and as much as I have come to enjoy running, I have to tell you that the first fifteen minutes out of the car demand a LOT of self-motivation because I don't like to be cold. Yesterday we ran the first mile at a frustratingly slow pace so that our muscles could warm up and to prevent injuries. Unfortunately, this meant that we felt the cold for that first mile. Thirty degrees is too warm to wear gloves, so we both pulled our sleeves down over our fists until we started to warm up. I am sure we were quite the sight, running so slow a fast walker could have passed us, with penguin-like short strides, trying to steel ourselves against the wind. The first mile of the trail had the additional challenge of two tunnels, both of which have been filled with overflow and ice this winter so they were ankle twisters.

It is always in the first mile that I think about all of my friends who say they could never run, that they are just not runners like we are. I think about those friends because the thought invariably creeps in to my head that we could just turn around, jog back to the car, drive home, and go back to bed. Best not to say that one out loud, so the first mile is pretty quiet between Nick and I. I try to shift my focus to two pieces of running advice, the first being one that I picked up third-hand...Sarah told Chanda who told me: The first couple miles always suck, no matter how good of a runner you are. I agree. The second piece of advice came from my friend Dena: When you don't feel like exercising, because you are achy and tired and have no energy is EXACTLY when you need to exercise and release those endorphins.

Since our prior long run had been in Hawaii, during this 12 mile run I mentally compiled the following list:

Top 10 things runners in Hawaii never have to think about

10. Moose
9. Water on your waist pack freezing (at mile 8, with 4 miles to go, I wanted to cry but couldn't spare the body fluid)
8. GU freezing (GU is a gel, more on this later, it is a fuel long distance runners take every 45 minutes or so)
7. Frozen Chock Block (a gummy bear like block you can eat, because you were tired of frozen GU)
6. Finding the water you left in the car for hydration after you run frozen ( again, I wanted to cry but this time didn't have the body fluid)
5. Frost everywhere on your body you are sweating (back, bum, upper lip, hat, etc.)
4. Breaking through ice on a very deep puddle that looked frozen
3. Hair, wet from sweat, freezing into icicles clunking the back of your neck
2. Ice, wet ice, black ice, crunchy break-up ice, slush
1. Frozen eyeballs

More thoughts later, baking with Jessica calling...