Run Camp

 It’s that time of year when nearly 1,000 people converge on my gym, filling the hallways, classrooms and restrooms, to spend the next few weeks honing their running skills, or for most, starting a brand new running career. They are young, old, fat, thin, male, female. Most are sporting a brand new kit of running gear from head to toe: bright neon jackets with Icebreaker wool shirts and gators sticking out at the neck; Lycra tights that still have their out of the box sheen, and pristine running shoes, with laces still lily-white and toes unstained by mud or rain. They’re loud, laughing, excited; their nervousness is palpable. They cling to their friends and offer disclaimers to the run leaders signing them in. They clutch up in the hallways and block the entrance to the gym, where I must pass through their gauntlet to get to Saturday morning spin class. They sit in the walkways, feet splayed out in fresh new SmartWool socks, begging to trip me, as I make my way past to spend the first part of my Saturday in a dark room on a bike that goes nowhere.

Last year, I hated them. I endured Saturday after Saturday wrestling my way through the rabid run campers to get to spin class. I resented them more each week. Not only were they clogging up the gym, blocking the way and taking our parking spaces, their fresh-faced enthusiasm at fever pitch, but they were running and I was not. Between years of arthritis, a bad ankle and an old hamstring tear, I didn’t think I could ever run again. Biking was going to have to be enough for me. But I watched them week after week: overweight, out of shape people caught up in the flurry with their running peers. I watched them struggle through the snow as they left the building for group runs, their spanking new shoes getting wet and dirty while they straggled along at the back of their group, some not even making it to the street before they tuckered out and walked. And, they inspired me.

So, as everyone knows who’s been reading this blog for a while, I had my own run camp. It lacked the benefit of group camaraderie, lectures from trainers and inspirational talks. But I started training and ended up a runner. Not a fast runner, not a long distance runner, but enough of a runner to satisfy that longing.

So this year, I empathize with them. They are new runners, entering into the unknown, exposing their novice skills to hundreds of others, in the quest to run a 5K, a half, or maybe even a marathon. They’re trying something new where they might fail, might get hurt, or worse, quit before they find out what they could become. Now, when I put up with the inconvenience of hundreds of runners clogging up my gym for a few weeks, it’s okay, because, now I’m one of them.

© Huffygirl 2013

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Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in pictures

What a year!

© Huffygirl 2013

Born to run or not: 5K update

Mission accomplished. Here’s my son Mike and I prior to my injury-free 5 K race. Mike did great – we started together and seconds later I never saw him again. I kept my usual slow pace and managed to complete and remain injury free. But I’m dialing it down for now – no more 5K’s for a while. I’ll stick to my two miles two or three times a week, and behave. Maybe we are born to run, but at least for me, only in short, slow distances.

Kudos to blogger buddy Martin at Thoughts from Finchley who recently dusted off his old cycling jersey and got out on his brand new bike. I expect to see him passing me by any time now.

Meanwhile, cold weather is moving in here, making it almost impossible for a sissy like me to get outside and run or bike. For the next few months I’ll probably be mostly stuck in the gym, getting all tangled up on the treadmill, or slogging through yet another spin class. What do you do to stay active now that the weather is turning colder?

© Huffygirl 2012

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The color of running

I am head over heals in love with running clothes. Bright orange tech tees. Purple socks. A periwinkle blue “technical base layer” shirt. Technical base layer? Who would have thought I would ever be the kind of person who would need a “technical base layer?”

Then there’s the fabric. The fabrics of my real life are mundane, routine. Denim. Polyester. Cotton. But in my secret identity as “runner” I wear exciting cloth with exciting names: Merino wool from Australia. Compression Lycra. Moisture-wicking nylon. Gortex. All I need is a cape to complete the feeling that I’m running in a super hero costume. Except a cape would create drag and slow me down, so forget that.

This is my first experience owning exciting athletic clothes, and I’m basking in it. Sure I’ve had athletic clothes before. I’ve got plenty of bike clothes, but let’s face it, except on those svelte professional riders, bike clothes do not look all that great. My second son cowers and declines to be seen with me in public in them.  My first son refers to them as “my ridiculous outfit.” But running clothes? Nobody ever makes fun of those. Do Usain Bolt’s kids make fun of his clothes? Well,I don’t even know if he has kids, but if he did, I’m sure he wouldn’t get any grief over his running unitard.

The best part of running clothes is the tech features. Running shirts are not just tees. They have panels and gussets and inserts designed to lessen drag, support muscles, and wick moisture. My sports bra has angled layers to get the job done. My base layer shirt is designed to keep me warm under the top layer while wicking away moisture, and has handy slits that let me pull the sleeves down over my hands, but still see my watch. In stark contrast, my everyday clothes sadly lack special features, and often disappoint.

If (when) I get to the point where I can no longer run, I will mourn the loss of my running clothes. I could be like those aging senior citizens who wear jogging suits as everyday wear, a little blue-haired woman with a gaudy necklace and jaunty scarf  made to match my zip-up sweats. But then I’d have to drive a Buick and live in a senior citizen compound, both of which I’ve already sworn to never do. For now, I’ll delight in my tech outfits, and savor every day that I’m able to don and use them.

What is your passion of color and fabric?

Christopher McDougall and me: Born to run, or not?

Weeks after my reintroduction to running my first 5K in 30 some years, I’m getting ready to go out for a little run again. First  I tape up my recalcitrantly inflamed ankle. Next, Ace wrap my torn, aching hamstring. Then the usual stuff:  shorts, shirt, heart rate monitor, cell phone, and I’m ready to go. Turns out that running has only gotten harder, not easier, as my physical therapist and sports medicine doc can attest. So why do I still do it? I admit that most days I’m mystified myself.

If we are, as Christopher McDougall posits, born to run, why is it so hard, or nearly impossible, for most of us? I’m two years late to the party, reading McDougall’s 2010 tome, Born to Run, long after everyone else has already tried and given up on barefoot running and buying Chia pets to make their own chia seed elixir. Yet, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, convinced that somewhere in this book is the answer to how a middle-aged women with a non-athletic body can somehow be transformed into a modicum of runner. My goal to run two miles twice a week, and a few 5k’s a summer, so far has been mostly insurmountable, and getting farther away each day, as every run I take I swear will be my last.

So I’m trying it again.  Like McDougall, I’ve been to my family doctor, who gently suggested that walking might be a better option, ahem, at my age. I’ve been to the sports medicine doc who told me that as long as I’m unable to hop on my bad ankle, I’ll have no success running on it. My bike guru who had gently discouraged me, now says “I’m surprised you’ve lasted THIS long.” The only bright spot is at  physical therapy, where, I’ve  actually garnered some understanding of my aspirations, and surprisingly, some improvement, including now being able to hop on each foot.

I could try gait analysis, but I’m afraid I’ll end up being the five-foot two version of McDougall’s running monster, as McDougall recounts here, which had me chortling uncontrollably when I first read it:

“Dr. Davis put me on the treadmill…and had me walk, trot and haul ass.. Then I sat in horror as she played back the video. …The guy on the screen was Frankenstein’s monster trying to tango.. I was bobbing around so much, my head was disappearing from the top of the frame. My arms were slashing back and forth like an ump calling  a player safe at the plate, while my size 13s clumped down so heavily it sounded like the video had a bongo back beat…my right foot twisted out, my left knee dipped in, and my back bucked and spasmed so badly that it looked as if someone ought to jam a wallet between my teeth and call for help. How was I even moving forward with all that up-down, side-to-side, fish-on a hook flopping going on?”

McDougall’s quest to run without injury brought him to explore the ways of the Tarahumara, a  tribe of super runners, and the Leadville Trail 100 ultra-marathoners, all of whom run amazing distances year after year, without harm. If those folks can run like that, shouldn’t McDougall and I be able to run our paltry little distances injury free? Unless McDougall’s writings are sheer hyperbole, perhaps I’ll find the answer by the time I finish the book.

Have you read McDougall’s book? What physical achievements have you accomplished, despite the odds tilted against your success?

© Huffygirl 2012

Run Diary, part II

Mama’s got a new pair of shoes!

(Huffygirl’s run journey continues: see Part 1, posted May 8, 2012)

Day 1: After spin class, I get on a treadmill and run a little bit. Walk five minutes, run two minutes. Not much of a run. The walking shoes I’m wearing keep catching on the treadmill belt. I have to change the treadmill speed when I go from run to walk and back again. I keep pushing the wrong buttons and had to jump off several times when I made it go way too fast. But for a few minutes, I ran.

Day 4: Repeat of day 1. This time my legs feel like lead. I run maybe a minute for every 5-10 that I walk. The gym fan is whipping my hair in my face, but it’s still too hot. Me, the person who spends 99% of my life wearing two sweaters, is hot, melting hot. Why should running make me soooo much hotter than biking, especially when I’m not even doing that much?

Day 5: I’m rubbing my shoulder all day. For some reason, running is aggravating my surgery shoulder. Must be the bouncing. My boss asks me why my shoulder hurts. “Thought I’d try a little running,” I say. She gave me that look, the look that says “you’re not 25 any more, what were you thinking?” I decide it’s time to keep this running thing to myself.

Day 10: Despite the fact that I’m not making much progress, I decide I am a real runner now, and order a new sports bra. And just for good measure, some compression shorts, because my old hamstring tear is aching every time I run. Actually, all my old injuries are aching every time I run.But hey, I’ve lost two pounds, and I have to keep up with Susan at Coming East.

Day 15: I come home from work and see my new sports bra has arrived. It’s a beautiful hot day. I decide it’s now or never – to run in public. “I’m going out for a little walk” I tell my husband, as I don new sports bra, running shorts, running socks, heart rate monitor, and my heavy walking shoes. “Looks like you’re planning to do a little running” he says. Guess the secret is out. I step off my driveway and begin. Six long blocks and four short blocks is one mile. I decide to walk a block, run a block. One mile down. This is so much better than running on a treadmill. I don’t feel so cramped and don’t have to mess with any buttons. By the time I’m near the end of the first mile, I look forward to the end of the block when I can lapse back into a walk. But one mile down and I’m still alive so I keep going.The second mile is a little easier, but again I’m melting hot. I’m thinking that this sports bra is enough like a top that maybe next time I can run without a shirt. Don’t the Olympic women do that? My final time is 14 minutes for the first mile, 13 for the second. There are plenty of people who could WALK a mile in those time, but I’m ecstatic. I decide it’s time to buy running shoes.

Day 16: I wake up to realize that everything aches. Knees, shoulder, neck, IT band, feet.”It’s because I don’t have running shoes” I rationalize. I take spin class in the morning, and end up hot and tired, just phoning it in. Later I go to the premier running store in my town to buy running shoes. Kathleen, a marathoner who waits on me, is helpful and encouraging. She tells me my walk a block, run a block plan is the best program ever – that’s what ALL the new runners do. I ask her if it would be silly for me to sign up for the big 5K run in three days – after all I just walked/ran two miles, and 3.1 is not that much more. She assures me that should be just fine. Maybe I’ve fooled her into thinking I’m much better than I am.

Day 17: Two days before the 5K run I try out all my new gear. I look great – like I really know what I’m doing. The compression shorts are a job to put on, but I’ve decided I’m going to wear them every day for the rest of my life. They hold in all the flab and make me feel slim. (found out later they’re great right up until you have to go the bathroom.) I do my two-mile run from my house again, in a gentle rain. I discover that the second mile is easier after I’ve beat out all the pain and stiffness in the first mile. Hmm – does that mean I have to run four miles in order to feel good running three? I did each lap in just over 13 minutes – a little better than last time. I decide I’m ready to do the 5K in two days as a walk/run race.

Day 18: It’s packet pick-up for the race. There are lots of people and hoopla because besides the 5K run and walk, there’s a half marathon and full marathon. I fill out the late registration and wait in line. I see a few people I know, and no one says “What are YOU doing here?” so I take it as a good sign.

That night, I wake at 3:30 AM from a disturbing dream. In the dream I get delayed getting to the race, and by the time I get there all of the runners have already taken off. I decide I’ll try to run anyway, but I don’t have all my gear and I’m not sure where to go. Now here’s the really disturbing part of the dream. While I’m trying to collect my gear and get ready, I’m visited by three people: one from my childhood past, one from the recent past, and one from the present. This clearly Dickensian warning disturbs me so that I wake up in a panic. What are they trying to warn me of? The uncanny resemblance of the three visitors to the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future tells me that I must heed some kind of warning or suffer a dire fate. What have I gotten myself in to? It takes awhile before I fall back to sleep.

Day 19: It’s race day. My husband and I watch the marathon start, then line up for the 5K race. He tells me he’s planning on going nearly as slow as me, about a 13 minute mile, because this is his first run after back surgery. “Whoa, better be careful I don’t beat you,” I say. The race begins. My husband takes off  like a shot and I never see him again. Thirteen-minute mile indeed. I run most of the first mile and find it’s not too hard at my slow pace, with race-day adrenalin helping me out. By mile two I’m still running most of the time, just stopping for a few steps here and there when my heart rate gets too high. I’m encouraged to see that I’m surrounded by other runners going at a similar or slower pace, and many more behind me. No matter what I told people my race goals were, my real goal was to not be the last runner, and to not have any of the 5K walkers pass me. So far, so good.

The third mile begins at the base of the only significant hill in the race. I decide to take this hill walking. I want to save some energy for the end so I can at least run the last 50 yards at the turn towards the finish line. I end up alternating running and walking for most of the rest of the race, but still running more of it than I thought I would be doing.

At the finish line, I end up meeting my three goals: I ran the approach to the finish; I was not anywhere near the last 5K runner; and no walkers passed me. Turns out no dire consequences (unless you count hurting everywhere except my hair) and success on my first 5K run in 30 years. Finishing time: 39.11, 12.31 minutes per mile. Hurray!

© Huffygirl 2012

Run Diary Part I

I used to be a runner. I use that term rather loosely. Probably a more apt description would be that I used to be a person who ran a little bit. I never really got all that fit, but after several months, was able to run a mile in a blazing 10 minutes. I ran my first and last 5 K race at age 28, then a few months later, quit running. At that time I quit, I was getting arthritis; I was tired and everything hurt. Running just wasn’t fitting in with this, and the demands of a family with small kids. So I quit. I tried other things over the years. Finally a few years ago, I settled on biking, which helped me become fit, and was  enjoyable, but still was not running.

Lately, now some 30 years later, like a fickle mistress, the running bug has bitten again.  Yes, I said 30 years. I should be thinking about applying for Medicare, not running.

I ran the idea up a few flagpoles, but no one saluted. My bike guru said, “well, you do have that arthritis, just sayin…” My husband hemmed and hawed and didn’t want to come right out and say no, because after all he’s my husband. The girls at work said “‘Do you REALLY think that’s a good idea?” And so it went from everyone I asked. So, naturally, I gave it a try.

This is NOT my arm.

To be continued.

© Huffygirl 2012

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