Cafe de Desiree

July 18, 2011

2 A Runner’s Diary: The Triumphs and Tragedies of a Beginner

Filed under: Athletics — desi83 @ 7:17 am

The Second Race:
(Please read part one below before reading this post)
I was glad to merely finish my first 5K and to be running at the end. I discarded any goals outside of that as I ran without the confidence and preparation that I needed to successfully race against anyone, including myself. I decided that this time, during my second race, I was going to win the race against myself. I finished in just under 32 minutes during the first race. I walked at least five, maybe even ten minutes of it. I didn’t time it, so I am not certain exactly how long I walked up those hills with slumped shoulders and my head hung low. My goal was to beat myself. If I ran under 30 minutes and didn’t walk during the race, I’d feel accomplished. Glen gave me a perfect solution for the problem of not feeling prepared. This was a simple solution that would help us both feel ready this time. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t think of it the first time. He discovered on the website of this particular 5K, the Brentwood Race Against the Spectrum, that there was a map of the run. It was so obvious. We were going to check out the trail ahead of time. If there were hills, we were going to train on them. I refused to be beaten down again by the beginning runner’s enemy, the hill. This was planned last minute, so we were just going to drive there and walk it on this particular day. However, I realized that I had a bag of gym clothes and running shoes in my car from a light work out that I had done the previous day. They weren’t sweaty or stinky, but even if they were, I was going to get them that way after the run regardless. We had planned a run the following day, but we agreed to run the trail that day. It would be the best way to prepare. So, Glen made the long drive to my work, which is close to Brentwood, and I got into his car to go to Crockett Park. We drove through the streets of Brentwood, daydreaming of our future home. We chose a couple of homes that we could be comfortable living in. They were on large plots of land, 2 or three stories high with brick or stone walls around them, and they had the architecture of modern day castles. We passed a sign that said “Starting in the 500’s”. Some day, we thought, it’d be nice to be rich enough for houses like those. We arrived at Crockett Park, which had everything one could imagine having in a park: an especially nice frisbee golf course as Glen pointed out, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a decent outdoor amphitheater. As we neared the amphitheater, we noticed there were several cars pulling into the parking lots, and there were parking lot attendants directing the traffic. “We just came here to run,” Glen said,laughing. We heard “Smooth Criminal” playing from the stage. People were getting out of their cars and herding to the stage with their lounge chairs, coolers, and whining children. “What the hell is going on?” Glen asked rhetorically. “Let’s check it out,” I suggested. We parked and began preparing for the run. Glen strapped on his compression running socks and light weight running shoes. I already had mine on, but I took one last swig of water. We stretched our muscles, which is something that we tend to forget to do. His shoulder tends to bother him, so I try to remind him to stretch his shoulders. We are good for each other in that way. He tends to remind me of a lot of things that I don’t remember for myself. I like to tease him about always being prepared since he was an Eagle scout and is now a scout leader. I love that about him, his always being prepared because I am usually not. I love that he dedicates himself to the scouts as well as other endeavors. He motivates me to have that sort of dedication as I’ve never really had that quality. Running is something immediate and concrete that I can dedicate myself to.
Once we felt ready to run, we made a detour to the stage. We had to know why the entire city of Brentwood had flocked to this amphitheater in the park. What we saw seemed to scare Glen to some extent. A young, black Michael Jackson impersonator wearing black leather pants, a blue shiny, frilly shirt, and a curly ponytail was thrilling the audience with old Michael Jackson favorites. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Michael Jackson’s music. But the impersonator was a bit ridiculous, and we weren’t sure why he was so popular. I mean, there is only one Michael Jackson, and it is futile to attempt to be him as a performer. We left, or rather Glen grabbed me and quickly began walking away. I had to know what this was about, so as we walked past a parking lot attendant, I asked him what was all the hype about. “It’s a free concert in the park that they have every week in the summer,” he replied. Apparently there were several other cover artists who took the stage during the summer. Free entertainment made sense, even in an upscale town like Brentwood.
With our curiosity fed, Glen told me where the run would begin, but we walked a little further until we passed the traffic going into the amphitheater. “Are you ready?” he asked with a smile. I nodded, and we sped off down the concrete path. We sped past the tennis courts and soccer fields. We ran through the woods on a slight downhill slope that gave us temporary relief with shade and a breeze. I was enjoying the trail so far for its scenic beauty and lack of hills. I was actually enjoying the run instead of just suffering through it, as I have during some training sessions. It was about 7pm by then, so the sun wasn’t blazing down on us as much as when we trained in the afternoons previously. My mouth began to feel dry, so I stopped at a water fountain outside of the public restroom just to rinse my mouth. “I’m not going to drink the water, I just need to wet my mouth,” I announced as he turned to see why I had stopped. “I don’t think Brentwood water will hurt you,” he joked. “I just don’t want to get a cramp from drinking too much water,” I explained under my breath. Talking was not easy at that point. “Alright, let’s go then,” he urged. We continued running until we came to a parking lot, and I suddenly stopped. “I have a cramp, and I am melting in this heat,” I cried. “It’s okay, we can walk for a bit. We did a mile and a half, so that’s half-way,” he replied graciously. I love that any time that I have to stop and walk, he never complains or makes me feel bad about it. However, he doesn’t enable me to be lazy either. After a couple of minutes, he asked me if I was ready to run again. I always know that if I say I’m not ready, he’ll give me a couple more minutes. At that point, however, I was ready to push myself a bit further. My cramp had subsided, and I was able to speak clearly again. We pushed ourselves to run that last mile and a half (minus whatever distance we walked). My body began to heat up to the point that the wind felt cold on my skin. I was covered in sweat, which always gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love to feel my body sweat because that tells me that I am pushing it to the limit, and also it cools my skin. I started to get worried, though. The wind felt colder and colder, and I had chill bumps all over my skin. I just felt incredibly uncomfortable. It is a strange feeling, being hot and cold at the same time. I was afraid that this would lead to vomiting. I absolutely did not want to vomit in Crockett Park. I wanted to finish, though, so I told myself that I could make it just a little bit further. For some reason, I thought that we were parked closer than where we had actually parked. That is a terrible feeling for a beginning runner. After we passed the first two parking lots, I finally gave into the fear. “I’m stopping, you keep going, babe,” I shouted. He turned around to look at me, and he continued to run. I never want to hold him back, just as I know he wouldn’t want to hold me back. So, I don’t mind it if I have to walk behind him for a bit. I know that with consistent training, he can be a great runner. I think with more experience, I could say the same for myself. I stopped shivering as I finally approached the car. “I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t feel right,” I lamented. “It’s okay, sweetie, you ran most of the trail. And we have our run tomorrow,” he said sweetly. “I felt cold. I was afraid that I was going to throw up, like I was sick or something,” I explained. “You felt cold because your body became hotter than the wind outside,” he explained, “it’s okay to throw up as a runner, it happens.” “I know, but I didn’t want to throw up ‘here’,” I said as I waved my hands in the air. “True,” he said smiling. He stripped off his sweaty socks and running shoes and slipped into a pair of flip flops. I didn’t have mine with me, so I just dealt with the sweatiness for the time being. “I really want to run the entire race this weekend without stopping to walk,” I complained. “I know, sweetheart. We still have tomorrow to train. I know that you can do it,” he encouraged as he kissed me on the cheek. “So do you want to go home and take a shower before we hang out?” he asked. “It’s getting late, so I guess if you think that I have time,” I replied uncertain. “I mean, we’re both stinky and sweaty, so we can stay that way if you really want to, I don’t care,” he joked.

The night before the race, I took a sleeping pill. We went to bed at 10 pm, so I was sure that I was going to get plenty of rest. I laid there in the bed beside Glen, and I felt my body become heavy. I was so relieved to know that I was going to have a restful night before the race. I continued to lay there, feeling heavy. Yet, sleep did not find me. I didn’t understand how I could feel so drowsy, and yet my mind would not shut off. I was worried that I wouldn’t sleep well, and as a result, I would not run well. I was worried that I wouldn’t improve from the last race. Glen was sound asleep, heavily breathing (but not snoring of course!). I eventually drifted in and out of sleep until 4:30 am when the alarm sounded. After hitting snooze a couple of times, he rolled out of bed. I had asked to sleep until 5 am. I drifted back to sleep until he came into the room and kissed me. “Wakey wakey, eggs and bac-y,” he said softly. “Hmmm,” was all that I got out. “I know, but it’s time to get up and get ready. I don’t want to be late,” he said. “I know, I’m getting up,” I complained. The sleeping pill was still in effect. I felt like I was floating inside of a heavy cloud. Glen started the shower for me, and I slowly made my way to the bathroom with my toiletries and clothes. I stepped into a steamy hot shower, and the heavy cloud began to disappear. I felt alive again. I used to think it was silly to take a shower before a run since I was just going to get sweaty, but Glen made a good point. A hot shower energizes the muscles before a run. I have learned so much, and there is still so much to learn about being a runner that even Glen probably has yet to learn. I had learned from my last race not to eat a heavy breakfast or have coffee right before the race. So, I had a piece of toast with honey and just a couple of sips of coffee rather than a whole cup. I drank as much water as I could hold. I was so ready for this.We made our way to the race with his sister behind the wheel. She raced through the streets to get us there on time, as Glen was very apprehensive about being late. He had every reason to be apprehensive because the gun was to go off right at 7 am, so it wasn’t the type of thing that we could be casually late for. Out of the three of us, none of us are morning people. We were almost there, when we approached a tunnel and had to stop behind a parked truck. “Is there anyone in that truck?” Anna asked. “It doesn’t look like it,” I answered uncertainly. “Oh my gosh, there is a bus stuck in the damn tunnel,” Anna said to the dismay of all of us. “Damn it!” Glen shouted. “It’s okay, it’ll re-route us,” he reminded us. The female computer voice told us where to go from there, and we arrived at Crockett Park, somehow with minutes to spare. We were pre-registered, so other than a quick bathroom break and a warm up jog, we were ready to start. “Where should we line up?” I asked Glen. “We’ll get in the middle of the front section,” he suggested. We lined up behind the pros, and we did our last few stretches. “Are you going to wear your shirt during the race?” he asked. I looked around. “No one else is wearing just a sports bra,” I observed uncomfortably. “Um, look harder. I have seen girls here dressed skimpier than you. You’ll feel better if you take off the shirt,” he suggested. I smiled shyly and removed my shirt. I tucked it in the back of my shorts, and I already felt much cooler. “I hope that I can run the whole thing,” I said desperately. “If you feel like you must stop and walk, count for twenty seconds. Use the timer on Anna’s watch if you have to,” he advised. Anna always lets me borrow her watch. That is something that is on my list of things to buy as a beginning athlete. “Just don’t let yourself walk without timing yourself, and start running again after that twenty seconds is up,” he said looking me straight in the eye. “Okay, I can do that,” I said confidently. This was a much bigger race than the last. It was actually time-chipped, and there was at least three times as many people as the one in Nolensville. The announcer came over the speaker, and the gun went off right at 7 am. We ran together for probably a mile. We ran through the parking lot, through the woods, and finally we came to the small hill that led to a small parking lot near the tennis courts. I had to stop to walk. I remembered what he had told me, so I began to count. Eight seconds went by, and the small hill had now flattened into level ground. I had seen too many runners pass me that were not as fast as me. I decided to run again. Glen had taken off, so I had lost site of him. One day we’ll finish together, I thought. I wanted him to do his best and go as fast as he could, so I wasn’t bothered that he had passed me. I was only bothered that I couldn’t keep up with him just yet. But in that moment, I knew that I had to refocus on my goals. Eight seconds of walking was not bad at all. I was running fast, wanting to make up for the time that I had lost. I had passed the two mile marker, and I was still going strong. I started having trouble breathing about a half a mile from the finish, so I had to stop and walk one last time. Note to self, take a allergy pill before the race next time. I felt my chest tightening, and my nose was terribly congested. My shirt had been threatening to fall out of my shorts throughout the race, so I finally made use out of it. I used it as a handkerchief, and I felt better. I took deep breaths, long breath in, long breath out. I centered myself again, all the while counting to twenty. Once I reached twenty, I really did feel like I could breath again. I knew that I only lacked about a half a mile. A ten year old kid struggled past me. I had seen him run, walk, run walk since I had slowed down. I wanted to tell him to find his pace so that he could finish the race running. I could see that he wanted to run fast more than anything. I also knew that I really didn’t want to be beaten by him. He would go on to win in his age group, by the way. I ran a bit faster than I had run previously in the race, but I found a pace that I could keep. I wanted to finish strong. I pushed myself, seeing the walkers and the joggers struggle up the hill on the other side of the loop. Then, I could see the giant red timer up ahead at the finish line. I ran as hard as I could. It was dejavu from the last race. There was a girl about my age running just a couple of feet in front of me. I heard Glen yell “beat her,” from the crowd just as he had done at the end of the last race. So, I pushed a little bit more. So did she. Bitch. My legs literally would not push me to catch up with her. Was she on skates or something, I wondered. That was a small battle that I accepted as a loss that day. Yet, as I crossed the finish line, I looked up to see 28:10 on the clock. That was all that mattered. I had beat my time by almost four minutes from the last race. Also, I only walked for a total of 28 seconds. I just wish that girl hadn’t gotten in front of me when Anna tried to take my picture. I was actually trying to have a photo-ready facial expression at the finish line this time. I had a big smile of triumph on my face when I crossed that line. I finished at fourth place in my age group for females. The girl who placed first in my age group only beat me by two minutes. So, I had triumphed that day, and I also had a new goal. Glen had finished at a little over 26 minutes, which was near his goal. So, if I could shave off two minutes, that would put me at the same running time as him unless he improves. I hope he does though, because running with someone who is a little faster than me is constant encouragement to get better. Because there is no point in running this race if we ever become satisfied with our performance.

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July 12, 2011

A Runner’s Diary: The Triumphs and Tragedies of a Beginner

Filed under: Athletics — desi83 @ 7:06 am

I sit here in my own sweat, with achy legs and feet, trying to muster up the energy to go take a shower. The shower is what transforms me from the exhausted runner to the normal lazy person that I have known for awhile. My boyfriend, Glen, has turned me on to this phenomenon, running for fun and even paying to run to the point of exhaustion. We train together, and we keep each other motivated.  I have on my new kicks, New Balances from Running Warehouse.  These are the first decent running shoes I have owned since high school. I ran in hiking shoes for the first two weeks of training, and that is when Glen offered to help me find some actual running shoes. Hey, it was either that or work shoes. I also donned a Frederick’s of Hollywood bra underneath an ill-fitting Wal-Mart-special sports bra during the first month of training. Then, I broke down and bought my first decent sports bra. No wires and no bouncing? I never thought it possible. I had no idea how much was going to be involved with this running thing. As it turns out, it is pretty complex, and quite an investment.

Running is free, but being prepared to run without injuring yourself is surprisingly costly. I also had to buy running socks, a running hat, running shorts, and pay for the 5K events themselves. It is also a lifestyle change. I am a night owl. I like to stay up late, not just kind of late, but into the early morning hours. I write, read blogs, watch shows or clips on Hulu, and basically just stay up for the hell of it. I have always been this way. However, sleep is very important for a runner. I have tried to train on days when I didn’t sleep much the night before, and my body simply refuses to cooperate. I feel as though I am running through molasses when I am sleep-deprived.  I am still not disciplining myself in this area, as I am writing this at two a.m.  Then, there was diet, something I didn’t need to worry about in terms of weight. I used to eat breakfast and coffee, have a danish and coffee for lunch if anything at all, and then I’d eat a dinner composed of whatever beef or pork entree that my dad whipped up. Rarely were there vegetables involved, but always present were grease and carbs. Then, I’d follow it with ice cream or several miniature candy bars. You see, I was blessed with high metabolism. I can eat anything I want, as much as I want, and the most I may gain are love handles and a slightly bigger butt. Yet, with clothes on I looked pretty damned good. Then, I started running. As it turns out, foods without nutrition don’t give me energy, and junk-food gives me cramps.

Running three times a week, along with twice a week work-outs at the gym, actually caused me to crave healthy foods. So, I loaded up on fruits, vegetables, protein bars, soy and almond milk, soup, fish, and lots of water. I started to feel healthy, athletic even. I have been claiming to have an “athletic build” for awhile, though “skinny” was probably the better word. My waist started shrinking, my legs started getting toned, and my abs started forming. I could finally say honestly that I had an athletic build. This has not come without a cost. Every now and then, I’d be sitting in my chair wasting time on the computer, and I would feel my muscles spasm in my legs. I freaked out. Was there something wrong with me? Did I have MS or Parkinson’s or some other disease or condition that was causing spasms? No, it was just my muscles reacting to the sudden stimulation that I was giving them that they were not accustomed to. Then there were the blisters and the calluses. I have always been proud of my feet. I have nicely shaped feet, very feminine. I don’t have knobby toes or toes that are of weird sizes. I don’t have big feet, chubby feet, or squarish feet. Yet, I suddenly felt self-conscious about my feet. I was worried that if I wore sandals, people might be disgusted with my feet. Then I realized, I had runner’s feet, and it was something to be proud of. My boyfriend also had rough feet from constant running. My feet were working hard for the first time since high school when I ran cross country for a short time “for fun”. So, I had embraced my worn out feet, my spasming leg muscles, my new diet, and my new investment. Now, I was facing my first 5K. My goal was to run it in less than 27 minutes. During our training sessions, my boyfriend and I averaged between 8 and 9 minutes, so this seemed feasible.

Once I got to the 5K, I decided that my goal would be to merely run the entire thing without stopping to walk. I looked around to see people who were obviously avid runners, probably just doing this to prepare for bigger events. Then there were older people, overweight people, and even kids. This really was an event for everyone. We did our warm up walk before the run began, and we stretched. My boyfriend and I began running together. Then, he increased his pace and I lost sight of him. I decided that I was going to run at the pace that felt comfortable to me, and I didn’t need to prove anything besides the fact that I could run an entire 5K. I didn’t need to win the race. I was doing alright, when I came to the first water-stand. A man was sitting at the table, and a little girl with a bored look on her face was standing beside the table, which was holding several cups of water. On TV, I had seen the people at the water-stand actually hold out the water so that the runner wouldn’t have to stop. I guess this was too difficult for this poor girl. So, I stopped to get a cup of water, and I downed the whole thing. I threw it in the garbage, even though apparently I was supposed to toss it on the ground so as not to have to interrupt my running, but alas, it had already been interrupted due to the girl’s laziness. I began running again, and a cramp started in my side. It was as if someone had stuck a knife through my side and left it there to give me continuous pain. I stopped to walk. “Fuck,” I mumbled. I began to curse myself in my head. I told myself that I was a loser and a failure. I could not finish the race by walking. Everyone started passing me, and they made it look so damned easy. How did they do it? I let myself walk until the cramp subsided. Then, I started again.

There were two guys behind me, and the three of us ran close together through most of the rest of the race. I kept trying to lead them, but we kept switching positions. It gave me new motivation, racing these guys. I was feeling capable until I came to the first hill. “Holy Fucking Shit,” I said maybe a little too loud. This hill went straight up. I couldn’t see what was past this hill. I had no idea that I was going to be climbing a hill during this race. “Fuck it,” I said as I began to walk again. I figured I could continue running after the hill, and this wouldn’t hurt my time too badly. I was hoping to at least finish in 30 minutes. That is not really that great, but it’s not embarrassing. As I climbed the impossibly steep hill, I noticed my boyfriend walking up the hill several paces in front of me. Neither one of us had trained for hills. I didn’t feel so bad. After we crossed the hill, I saw him begin to run at a fast pace, and I slowly began running again several paces behind him. It didn’t take me long to lose sight of him again. I think at this point it would be incorrect to call what I was doing running. I was jogging, but it was better than walking. I saw people in their front yard a few feet ahead, watching the 5K runners and cheering us on. I couldn’t look pathetic in front of these strangers. So, they motivated me to start running. I whipped past them, sweat dripping into my eyes and my stomach warning me that the eggs and toast that I had consumed might make its way out. Once I passed them, I slowed to a jog again. The guys that I had been racing were behind me, but not far behind. We were soon racing again, so I jogged a bit faster to lead them. Then, the unthinkable happened. There was another steep hill! What the hell? I decided that I needed to try to run up the hill so as not to feel like as much of a loser. I pounded the pavement with all my might, but my legs were feeling too weak. So, with a sigh of defeat, I halted to a slow, shameful walk up the mountain-like hill. The guys that I had been racing jogged past me. Screw it, I thought. I didn’t want to be last, and I didn’t want to walk the last of the race. It would be the walk of shame, and my pride would not allow that. So, once I was on an even path again, I began to jog again. A couple of girls who had been so far behind me throughout the race that I hadn’t noticed them until now were running close behind me. It was just like my race with those two guys again. We switched back and forth in the lead of this three person race within a race, and I saw a sign that was like an oasis to me: 1K. There was only one kilometer left, which was much less than a mile. I had to finish this without walking. I didn’t increase my speed very much, but I got to a pace that was doable.

Then, another breath of fresh air came with the 1/2 K sign. I could see the finish line. I could see the runners who had already finished cheering us on. One of the girls that I had been racing was right on my heels. Then, we were running beside each other, or rather, jogging. Finally, I saw Glen smiling at me and cheering me on to the finish line. “Beat her”, he mouthed to me, pointing to the girl beside me. I smiled a devilish smile and gathered up all of the energy and adrenaline that I had left. I took off running at full speed, faster than I had ran throughout the entire race. His sister snapped a photo of me as soon as I approached the finish line. It is a picture that I would like to see burn and be destroyed forever. That picture said it all. I was in pain. I had maxed out my body during that race, and my distorted face showed it. I decided that my next running investment would be sunglasses to cover up that horrible, painful expression in future races. Once I finished, his sister handed me a bottle of water then looked at me and asked me if I was okay. “I need to throw up,” I said through heavy breathing. I ran to the bathroom and poured water on my face. I didn’t need to throw up afterall; I just needed air conditioning. She came into the bathroom to check on me, and I just laughed and said I was not throwing up. We came out of the bathroom and my boyfriend was there waiting. We hugged each other, and he offered me a banana, the apparent staple of running events. I did not finish in thirty minutes, but I came out of it running, so I didn’t feel too bad. That first 5K did make me realize how unprepared I was for the event, even with all that I put into it. This was not just a frivalous hobby. I was going to have to live the lifestyle and work at it. Because even through all of the pain and suffering that I’ve gone through as a novice runner, I feel more alive and energetic than I have ever felt, so I am ready to live the lifestyle of a runner.

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